Track & Field Star Wendy Fortino Giving Fitness A Try

With her season cut short due to injury, Olympic-level runner Wendy Fortino lost out on a chance to compete on the track and field stage. But the setback wasn’t nearly enough to keep the 26-year-old from Modesto, California away from the gym — proving yet again that you just can’t keep a good athlete down — and as she kept working out, a new interest began to blossom.

Nudged by peers identifying the potential of the determined, highly talented 5-foot-1, 115-pound former gymnast and dancer, Wendy set her sights on fitness competitions. She’s set to make her debut at the Sacramento Pro/Am this fall.

Wendy’s story comes with such a compelling twist that it seems only fitting her shoot happened in the shadows of Hollywood. The only thing left is a fairy tale ending in which the ostensible underdog wins her first show in the capital of her home state — something you can’t help but root for, especially after getting to know her.

Indeed, though only a rookie fitness girl, Wendy is brilliantly accomplished academically, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education from Cal State Stanislaus and a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology from Cal Poly — no small feat given that the prestigious tech school only accepts about one-third of applicants. She’s also a certified personal trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine.

I recently interviewed the very bright and engaging Wendy — an irresistible golden-haired beauty with the beach-ready physique evoking dreamy California postcards — who revealed some very exciting secrets about her athletic background and explains she’ll soon be taking on a new job in the Athletic Department of Stanford University.

Dean: Your photoshoot took place outside Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. Were you one of the “fit girls in the crowd” attending a bodybuilding show nearby? How were you discovered by Kriv Studios?

Wendy: “It was so funny! At the time, I was training for track (the Olympic Trials for the 800m). I decided to try out for American Gladiators and I kicked butt, but they didn’t choose me because I think I needed a better story to tell. I was pretty boring (I guess). I don’t really like to talk about negative things to get a spot on TV. If there is a show that focuses solely on athletic ability, I would be all over that. After my tryout, Lou Krivda approached me and told me that I had the ‘look’ he was going for on his website and wanted to do a photo shoot with me. I thought, ‘what the heck?’ And I did a photo shoot with him. I wasn’t prepared, but it was fun.
“One month later, I got a stress fracture in my foot and was out of the Trials for this summer, and stopped training for track. I had to keep working out, so I started lifting weights and was surrounded by people who were talking me into trying figure competitions. Well, I used to be a gymnast, so I thought it would be fun to add a routine. Since the photo shoot, I have put on a lot of muscle and have refocused my training to fitness. My first show is the Sacramento in November.”

Dean: The sporty outfit you wore for pictures added to your natural, athletic look and you seemed comfortable posing for the camera. Was it your first physique-style shoot? How did you feel about flexing and showing off your muscles?

Wendy: “It was my first photo shoot! Can’t you tell? Just kidding. But seriously, I clearly had no experience. I had so much fun though and I think I would be a lot better the second time around — especially if I prepared for it.”

Dean: Your physique is amazing — outstanding shoulders, great abs, stunning biceps and steely legs — with wonderful shape and balance overall. How do you maintain such pitch-perfect symmetry? Is it a helping of genetics or a lot of fine-tuning in the gym?

Wendy: “Thank you! I was a gymnast for 8 years (since the age of 7), and then I started dancing and running track and cross country. I was a pretty good runner and decided to compete in college. With a lot of hard work, I became a national-level runner. I have always had to be careful of spending too much time in the gym because I put on muscle so fast and so easily.

“At the time of the photo shoot, I had not lifted a single weight. I was training very hard though for track. I did a lot of long runs, interval training, and push-ups and sit-ups every day. My workouts were not geared towards looking a certain way. I was training for performance and my physique was a by-product of that. Now it is crazy because I am training for aesthetics so I have to eat a special diet and train hard. I have never done this in my life! I always ate whatever I wanted (but still healthy).”

Dean: What parts of your physique are you most proud of and have you ever surprised yourself, or a friend, with your strength in the gym?

Wendy: “I think that I have always had a great back and good shoulders without having to put a lot of work into them. Now that I am training them, I freak myself out when I look in the mirror. One thing that I did that I will never forget, was break the national sit-up record in 8th grade. I did 3,150 non-stop sit-ups and was featured on the front page of the paper and on numerous radio stations. My hometown still talks about it.”

Dean: You have a relentless passion for track and field that must have rewarded you with an extraordinary level of cardiovascular fitness. What else about the sport inspires you to stay so dedicated? Would you explain a little about your involvement with the Asics Aggies Running Club?

Wendy: “I have been a dedicated athlete my whole life. I can’t really explain what drives me, but it seems to carry over into all aspects of my life. My career is the same way. I am always looking for ways to better myself. I like to find things I am ‘good’ at and see if I can push myself so hard that I wonder if it is possible that anyone else is pushing as hard as me. It is a competitiveness that has been with me since I can remember. I remember when my Dad used to challenge me to pull-up and push-up contests as a kid. I wanted to impress him and would go until I literally couldn’t move anymore.
“I’m taking this season off of cross country and track (with the Asics Aggies). I am still keeping my sights on the Trials for 2012, but I think it will be fun to step away from the track for a little bit and hang up my spikes to try my hand at fitness. I am a performer too, and this is going to be a lot of fun for me.”
Dean: Congratulations on your new position at the very well respected Stanford University. Working for a major school sounds very challenging and exciting. Would you share a little about it?

Wendy: “Thank you! Sure. I start on September 8th, and I can’t wait. I will be running health and fitness programs for the students, staff and will work with our corporate fitness programs. Stanford is expecting me to come in and create more programs and grow the athletic department. That is what I do best, so I am really looking forward to it!”

Dean: Thank you very much, Wendy. Your story is wonderful! It’s been a pleasure getting to know such a beautiful, ambitious and successful young athlete and health expert. I’m so glad you’re joining the fitness ranks — best of luck in Sacramento and I hope we can catch up again after the show!

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~ by Dean Sucich on September 5, 2008.

5 Responses to “Track & Field Star Wendy Fortino Giving Fitness A Try”

  1. Thank you so much for this story! You guys are the best 🙂

    ~Wendy

  2. Good luck at the Contra Costa, Wendy!

  3. Aw, thanks! I just saw this 🙂

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