A woman who says she gets ‘stares’ and ‘sneers’ when she’s at the gym and has been told that women ‘can’t be strong and beautiful’ has hit back.
Wendy Fortino from Oceanside, California, has always been into fitness and even at the age of 10, boys at school would challenge her to races and arm wrestles – which they would inevitably lose.
The now 37-year-old was very much aware of her strength and she enjoyed the power and uniqueness it provided her with.
“It made me feel strong and powerful and my mum would encourage me never to hold back,” Wendy said.
“I struggled in other parts of school so I loved having something to succeed in. I’d always watch athletes on TV – especially the glamourous ones.”
It wasn’t until 2008 that Wendy found her passion for bodybuilding and since then, she’s gone on to win several championship titles with her impressive physique.
“My boyfriend – and now husband – Matt convinced me to compete. I’d been active my whole life in other areas like athletics, dance, and gymnastics,” she said.
“I won my first contest and from that moment on, I’ve been hooked. There have been a few bumps in the road but embracing health and fitness is my lifestyle now.”
She has become the one-to-beat at the gym and while some guys ‘sneer’ and ‘stare’ at her, Wendy hasn’t been deterred from her passion.
“I’ve become accustomed to the reaction my body gets from men. Most are very positive and praise my efforts, but I’ve had my fair share of sneers and stares in and out of the gym,” she said.
“I’ve had men tell me in the past that they are not into women with too much muscle, but that doesn’t bother me. When a person has a strong opinion about the way someone else looks, it usually stems from their own insecurities.
“I’ve also heard that women can’t be strong and beautiful.
“I just tune it out. Instead, I appreciate when someone tells me that I’ve motivated them.”
A typical workout for Wendy lasts for about an hour, where she focuses on her legs and glutes, chest and triceps, or back and biceps.
“I train my abdominals almost every day and I also spend an hour doing cardiovascular exercises,” she said.
When it comes to her diet, Wendy eats healthy, fresh food, such as fish, eggs, lean red meat, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and oats.
“I’m a mesomorph so I gain muscle very easily - I even had muscles when I was eight,” she said.
“This means I have to be careful in what areas I train as gaining muscle in the wrong place could throw my shape off.
Wendy is passionate about inspiring others to begin their fitness journey – particularly women.
“Anyone can start right here and right now. A person doesn’t have to be a certain age or have a certain ability to begin an active lifestyle,” Wendy said.
“Any activity you do consistently will yield improvement. My advice would be to consume nutritious foods and find an exercise routine that includes a mixture of strength and cardiovascular training.
“It can be daunting looking at how far away the end goal is, but small-scale week-to-week victories help with managing expectations.
“Not too long ago, I walked into a gym and was greeted by a young woman who told me that I’d inspired her to train for a contest. That’s incredible to me because I’m just one ‘domino.’
“Each woman I impact will go on to impact others – just as I have been impacted by all the trailblazers who came before me.”
Reporting by Australscope