Interview with Amazing IFBB Pro Wendy Fortino
Q. How do you start your day? Do you have a morning routine?
A. Yes! As a matter of fact, I wake up every morning at 4:30am… Hit my snooze button a few times to make sure that I am out of bed by 5am, drink some caffeine, and head into my home gym for 1 hour of cardio. After cardio, I take a shower, get ready for work, prepare my meals for the day, and try to have at least 15 minutes for some “me” time before heading out to make my train for work.
Q. How long have you been training?
A. I think that the term “training” is too broad for me. I have been an athlete my whole life, since I was 7 years old. When I was a kid, I did gymnastics, and was always active. I have been obsessed about being fit and in shape since I can remember, even in grade school. I loved beating the boys at arm wrestling and push-up contests, and loved showing off some definition in my arms so that I could feel like a powerful girl and not be bullied by the boys.
In terms of preparing for figure competitions, I have been doing this for 3 years now. I have made a lot of improvements over the past 3 years, but competed and won the overall at the first competition that I did, the NPC San Francisco Championships in 2008.
Q. What made you get into Fitness and Competition?
A. Well, my Dad and his friends knew more about this world when I was younger and he showed me some fitness routines and stuff on TV when I was a kid. I thought, “I’m going to do that!”… But I never thought I really would. Then, fast forward to 2008… I was in the peak of my track season, and met my current husband who is one of the best trainers in this industry, Matt Allen. He was a bodybuilder at the time and was really supportive of my track career. He came to my races to cheer me on and was excited that I was gearing up for the Olympic Trials in 2008. I unfortunately got a stress fracture in my foot right before the final races before the Olympic Trials, so needed something to keep me from getting depressed. To get me out of depression, Matt decided to train me for a figure show, and it worked! I had something to focus on, and I won the show (which is a plus and always helps you be happy!). I even competed in fitness in my second show, and though I won the fitness competition, it was too hard on my old body, so I decided to stick with figure.
Q. How many people have you encouraged into the sport since you started?
A. My husband and I have done contest prep for many successful figure and bikini competitors since I began this sport. Once I excelled at figure, and as I turned into a professional at it, we realized how great we work together as a team. Matt handles the bulk of the diet and training plan, and I handle the suit selection, presentation, and hair/makeup (which I do professionally as well). I would like to think that outside of the competitors that we have personally helped, there have been many more who have been inspired by my work ethic and success in this sport. I am very driven and disciplined and I know that it helps to have driven and disciplined people surrounding you to keep you inspired.
Q. What was your body like before you started training?
A. I think that with clothes on (which sounds funny, but let’s face it, we wear skimpy bikinis on stage), I don’t look a lot different than before I started. I was a bit skinnier, and had a much more “boyish” up and down frame before I mastered the art of strength training and proper diet. Now, I feel that I have a much more hourglass shape, which I think is a sexy thing. Proper diet is so important to create the body that you want, and this is where I have seen a lot of refinement with my physique.
Q. How do you keep yourself motivated and on-track through the grueling dieting in the last few weeks?
A. Well, I have never found this sport to be “grueling”. In fact, in never should be grueling. The fact is that this sport should be a fun thing to do on top of already being in shape. My philosophy, which I always share with our clients, is that you should achieve a physique that you can maintain with the proper lifestyle changes. I am always within striking distance of stepping on stage, and the last few weeks get a little tighter for me, but never grueling. So I guess that is my answer… If this is grueling, then it is a sign that you didn’t do your homework… I stay motivated all the time by setting small goals that can be achieved in weeks or months. Right now, my goals to achieve in 3 weeks are: lose ½ inch off of my waist, and perform 2x 45min incline walking lunges twice a week (I currently do 45min-1hour once per day).
Q. How do you handle the stress of it all?
A. My best stress release right now is having one full day per week completely off of work. With 2 full-time jobs (Fitness Director at Stanford, and assisting my husband with our business), it is sometimes hard to make sure that I have “me” time. So, aside from my workouts, I have one full day off. My husband and I will go to the gym together, use the sauna, go out to eat and see a movie, and sometimes take an evening walk to the park, talk about our hopes and dreams, and get a really good night sleep. I will feel refreshed and ready to begin the next week!
Q. Do you get more attention from the people now that you are in such good shape?
A. Well, I have been in good shape since I was a kid, so I don’t think I get more attention for my appearance now… Some people may think that I can’t relate to the typical success stories of “losing a bunch of weight to get to where I am at”, but honestly, I have a ton of experience mastering the best training techniques because I have tried everything you can think of over the years. I have experimented everything on myself training-wise, and am not out to get attention for how I look or what I have achieved. But when people come up to me, or contact me through our business website, I prefer inquiries about our programs we offer, or asking for guidance much more than I would value having a fan base.
Q. What do you feel is the most important thing athlete can have in order to be successful in this sport?
A. I believe that the most important thing that an athlete can have in this sport is a giant piece of humble pie. In this sport, we all train hard, follow a strict diet, and have aspirations to succeed and to be the best. Some athletes may have better resources and better genetics, but that doesn’t make them “better” than another athlete who maybe hasn’t had the exposure or the victories. In fact, some of the athletes who are the most knowledgeable, and we should be admiring the most, may not even be the ones achieving top honors!
I think there is this desire in this sport to be the next “icon”, but things are different now than they were 20 or 30 years ago. We have so many media platforms that there are just way too many stars to make any one of us think that we can be the “next big thing”. I personally have goals to move up in rankings, and maybe qualify for the Olympia. I also want to have a successful business with my husband. But I am doing it for me; I am focused on everyone else, and how many people I can help. If you do this sport to try to become popular, or become super exposed, you will get sucked into it, in a very negative way. Plus, take it from me; it is not well received from highly experienced competitors and fitness professionals to market yourself so much that it is forced onto people. I suggest for newbie’s in this sport to welcome the world into your new fitness lifestyle, do not force everyone around you to want or try to be like you. It’s just not a good look.
Q. What is your favorite energy/pre-workout supplement? Protein supplement?
A. I love Evogen before my strength workouts.
Q. How many days a week do you work out?
A. I work-out every day, and an off day for me is performing only cardio for that day.
Q. How many exercises per body part do you typically do in a workout?
A. This varies so much for me, and I never do the same workout twice. In fact, I don’t think that I have ever done the same exact workout two times since I began strength training. For me, I will get bored very easily. Also, I am very fit and adapt extremely quickly to things, so switching it up will keep my body guessing and responding. I will do anywhere from four to ten exercises in a single workout. Sometimes I superset, sometimes I circuit, sometimes I train using FST-7, it is always different. I will train the same body part with completely different exercises, in a completely different way every time.
Q. How much weight will you normally gain during the off-season?
A. I gain about 5-7 pounds in the off-season. I absolutely never allow myself to weigh more than 120 pounds. I have gone a few pounds above this before, but if I do, it doesn’t last long and I am really hard on myself for allowing it to go there. My “sweet spot” in terms of where my body looks its absolute best is around 115-118 pounds I would say. I compete at around 110-112 pounds, but will lose a few the day of the show because I cut my water out (of course), so it is usually at about 108-110pounds. I don’t obsess over my weight, but I do obsess over my fluctuations, the reasoning behind them, and figuring out how my body responds to everything that I do. This has enabled me to become an expert with my own body, and helps me greatly when I am helping other people.
Q. How about tanning/makeup/hair preparation for a contest. Can you tell that I’m still overwhelmed?
A. Are you asking if I am overwhelmed?… I don’t get too overwhelmed. I am a makeup artist and a perfectionist when it comes to my hair and makeup, so it is always perfect the day of the show. I like not having to rely on anyone else to do my hair and makeup. I will wake up the day of the show, and it is pretty much smooth sailing. I just take my time, do everything nice and slow and stay really calm. I have fun doing that part of it. I feel like it is reserved time for me to work on a special art project. In terms of my tan, I take very good care of my skin and make sure that the tan will absorb to my skin perfectly. That is super important, because if you have rough skin, pimples, or other imperfections, then the tan won’t look good on stage. We can be tough in the gym, but ladies, if you don’t take care of your skin, it can really affect the way that you display all of that hard work.
Q. What is your philosophy on diet?
A. This is very open-ended. Over the years, my diet has changed based on my body’s needs. I am not particular about sticking to a certain diet (high carb, low fat/ low carb, high fat). I guess that my opinion is that everyone should be following a plan with at least some sort of structure. Not to make this an answer about curing the world or anything, but this extreme approach that we have adopted in this sport is a little ridiculous. It’s as if following a diet and a plan only seem to relate if you are “in season”, or gearing up for a show. At the same time, “off season” means that we can throw caution to the wind and follow the irresponsible habits that have caused Americans to become the most unhealthy we have ever been in history. It’s crazy. So I guess that my philosophy is to eat a healthy diet year-round, not just pre-contest.
Q. Any holiday eating tips?
A. I would encourage people to focus on fun activities, spending time with family and friends, and planning fun events that incorporate some of the beauties of this time of year (like skiing, snowboarding, etc.). I think that doing these things will take your mind off of food and drinking. But, if you enjoy holiday treats, then don’t feel so guilty that you try to make up for it with a crazy crash diet or with starvation after the holidays are over. Ease back into all of your healthy habits and you should be just fine.
Q. Do you believe in workout programs like Insanity or P90X?
A. I believe in any workout programs that work. If someone decides that P90x will get them in shape, and they follow it consistently, it will work. However, without guidance of exercises and movement patterns, I do believe that people can get injured and discouraged to continue a program. Also, if people are using these programs, and believe that everything will happen in just 90 days, they may either be disappointed with a lack of accomplishment, and/or need more guidance after the 90 days is over. I would never argue with someone if they loved this program, or programs like it, and felt that it worked well for them. Likewise, if someone did not feel it was the right workout for them, I would support that as well. If one program worked for everyone, why would we have so many options to choose from? The bottom line is that if someone is motivated and excited, and has adequate guidance, they will have all of the tools to succeed in any program.
Q. What competitions have you participated in and what were the results?
Wendy Fortino’s competitive history:
NPC USA Figure Championships – 1st Place and OVERALL Champion 2011
(Achieved IFBB PRO card)
NPC Team Universe Figure Championships – 4th Place 2011
NPC National Figure Championships – 2nd Place 2010
NPC USA Figure Championships – 4th Place 2010
NPC USA Figure Championships – 6th Place 2009
NPC Contra Costa OVERALL Figure Champion 2009
NPC California State Figure Class “A” Champion 2009
NPC Sacramento OVERALL Fitness Champion 2008
NPC Sacramento Figure Class “A” Champion 2008
NPC San Francisco OVERALL Figure Champion 2008
Q. What do you wish you had known before you started doing shows?
A. I wish that I knew everything that I know now, but that would be impossible. I think that every competitor goes through an enlightenment process with experience. I would say that I make sure that our athletes are equipped with everything I can possibly think of that I have figured out to this point in my competitive career. I have made mistakes along the way that I don’t want them to make. I figured a lot of things out on my own, but I like the way that it happened for me.
Q. Looking back on what you have accomplished so far, what is one thing you would change if you could, knowing what you do now?
A. I guess that I believe that everything happens for a reason. For example, when I competed in my first National show, USA Championships in 2009, I wanted to earn my pro card so badly. I felt like I had a really good shot after winning a few overall titles in my rookie year of competing. However, if I had won my pro card after only the first try, then I would have entered the pro ranks less knowledgeable and experienced than I am now, and with less appreciation for that accomplishment. So I am glad that I didn’t earn my Pro Card earlier than I did. By the time that I earned it, I was ready to be a pro, and I appreciated it so much.
Q. What is one of the biggest sacrifices you’ve made, and was it worth it?
A. I have made a sacrifice with my time. I used to have more time to do more social activities, go on trips, see my family, etc., and now I have very little time to do these things. I am hoping that all of the work I have put in over the last few years will help free up my time later in life. My husband and I are working toward our goals, and we work all of the time to think about our future and freedom to do all of the things that we want to do. I believe it will be worth it, because I feel like I have a purpose in life. I have goals that I want to accomplish, and I am not scooting through life with a daily dead-end grind. Every challenge that I take on, and every decision that I make serves a purpose in my life.
Q. Is it not very hard to exercise and lift on such a low calorie diet? I am talking about the pre-contest diet. I know you follow a very low calorie pre-contest diet. Don’t you get hungry?
A. I don’t ever follow a really low calorie diet. The main reason for this is that I never get out of shape. I don’t believe in suffering through a contest preparation. I believe that suffering and feeling of depletion means one of 2 things: either you aren’t following your diet 100% (including sugar and cheating when you shouldn’t be), or you are using a contest preparation for all of the wrong reasons, and are probably not ready to compete in a show. What I mean by this, is the false perception that getting ready for a contest will help a person achieve their dream physique. People will often attempt a starvation diet to prepare for competition, which will not set them up for success after the show is over. I eat an extra clean diet when I am gearing up to compete, and my diet has structure that I follow, with little to no options that include sugar, salt, or anything that has been processed. I don’t get hungry, I just long for unhealthy foods sometimes because I don’t get to eat them. I am never deprived.
Q. Does your social life include others that are not into fitness or competition?
A. It is really hard to maintain close relationships with people who are not following the same lifestyle as I am. I have a lot of friends who are not in this industry, but we do not go out socially together or become really close. I mean, let’s face it; if you don’t go to clubs or bars to hang out, then you won’t meet people who do these things. Likewise, if your friends who you “used to” hang out with do these things, then you will likely stop hanging out with them, or feel guilty enough to pay occasional appearances at social events to try and keep these friendships alive. There is no getting around the fact that the people who engage in the same lifestyle choices as you do, will become your close friends inevitably. My friends are the people I see at the gym, and they are the people I can invite over to my house for dinner for a fish meal without apologies.
Q. Who is your favorite bodybuilder, fitness model, and/or athlete?
A. My favorite athletes are all people that I know, because if I don’t know someone, I feel that I am attached to an image or a thought of whom I think they are. I like to get to know someone that I admire to make the experience of admiration more real. Ray Arde is one of my best friends, and he is an IFBB Pro Bodybuilder. He owns a personal training studio that is very successful, and due to recent events in his personal life, he has been unable to compete in a while. However, I have seen a lot of what goes in behind the scenes in the lifestyle of someone who has accomplished as much as he has, and it is truly inspirational. I also admire Mark Byers, another very close friend of mine. He won the NPC Overall title at the 2008 California State Bodybuilding Championships. He used to be a linebacker with the 49ers professional football team, and has also had his fair share of struggles. Despite his struggles, he has achieved a high level in everything that he does. I often look at the hundreds of pictures of fitness, figure, and bodybuilding athletes that infiltrate our computer screens daily, and I admire many of these pictures. There is some great stuff out there. But how can you truly admire someone you don’t know? I love and admire my close friends like the two examples I have listed above. There is a reason I choose to surround myself with people like this.
Q. What is your favorite healthy meal?
A. My favorite healthy meal will change regularly. Right now, my favorite thing to eat is tilapia with brussel sprouts and wild rice. I know, very creative, but it’s the truth!
Q. Favorite guilty indulgence?
A. Peanut butter by the spoonful, walnut butter, and coconut butter. I always do these things in moderation, but sometimes, I just want to eat the whole jar in one sitting!
Q. What is your favorite exercise?
A. I have a new favorite exercise always emerging. Currently, I have been doing incline walking lunges on the treadmill for my cardio in the morning. I have been doing this consistently for a few months now, and I have made some dramatic improvements in my glute area!
Q. What is that one body part that you just can’t seem to bring up or make it look like you want?
A. I don’t have a body part that won’t respond, so I would have to say that if I ever have a frustration about my body, it is usually linked to something structurally that I can’t change. For example, I am short, and I can’t change that! I wish I could be just a few inches taller, but eh, say la vie!
Q. What is the best asset of your physique/body?
A. I want my legs to really stand out, because I personally feel this is the most feminine, sexy part of a woman’s body. I don’t want my arms to over-dominate, and I don’t want them to be huge either, so I have worked hard to create glutes and legs that I am pleased with and feel sexy in. So, that is my answer. My glutes and legs are my best, because I made them my best!
Q. What are your methods for breaking through a plateau?
A. I break through plateaus all of the time by constantly changing my plan. I respond quickly, and when I do, I will change what I am doing. I perform different types of cardio, try different strength training techniques, switch up the order of my exercises, and even switch up the time of day that I am training. All of these things stimulate a change in my response.
Q. What are your future plans?
A. I plan to continue working with my husband to create more resources for people to have access to our guidance and expertise. I am currently working on an e-book that I believe will help a lot of people, as well as creating exercise, diet, and training resources so that we can reach out to a lot more people than we can physically take on as clients.
Q. What do you want our readers to know about you that they couldn’t find out from seeing you on stage or in print?
A. I want readers to know that I appreciate every opportunity that I have been given. It has not been an easy journey, and I plan to do as much as I can with the success that I have had. I have said this to our clients, and I will say this to all of you: If I can make you better than me, fitter than me, and more accomplished than me, then I have done my job as a coach and as an educator.