Talayna Fortunato placed 32nd worldwide in the Open and narrowly missed out on a spot to the CrossFit Games, coming in 4th at the South East Regional. Originally from Johnson City, Tenn., Fortunato made her way to South Florida via Southern Utah University, where she was a Division I gymnast. Since Regionals, she has been tearing up the local throwdown circuit, winning the Swamp Monster 2.0, Integrity’s Revenge, Iron Curtain, and Infidel Throwdown in recent months. Fortunato has her sights firmly set on the Games in 2012.
How did you get into CrossFit?
I have a friend who encouraged me to try the new CrossFit gym in town. So, a little over two years ago, I walked into Real Fitness Naples and was hooked. My first WOD was "Angie." I used a band, but did it in 11 something. I strained both my biceps tendons and my upper arms swelled up for a week!
Undeterred, I went back. A few months later, I met my boyfriend Jesse there. He pretty much taught me 90 percent of what I know about the Olympic lifts and we both did our first competition at Sectionals in 2010.
You finished 4th at Regionals this year. Were you in a position to place in the top three and did something happen to knock you out?
I think I was in a position to place, but it wasn't one thing that would have had to happen differently, aside from not sucking at deadlifts. I was nine points behind 3rd.
I've obviously had some time to think about this, but these were my biggest mistakes: 1) I avoided deadlifts most of the year because I hurt my back and going into Regionals they were a definite weakness. I got 13th on that WOD. 2) I tore the crap out of my hands on the 100 pull-upsand should have worn tape grips. I could hardly hold onto the kettlebell – it was so bloody. That made the workout hard to finish. I went to bed that night with super glue on my hands. I did the muscle-ups and toes-to-bar the next day, but it wasn't as easy as usual, to say the least. 3) I got a bum call on my thruster for moving a foot at the bottom of my squat. After camera analysis they couldn't see the foot move, but wouldn't overturn the call.
What do you consider to be your weakness in CrossFit?
Deadlifts, but I have been working supplemental exercises to get my back strong and they have gotten a lot better. Recently I was able to do 255 for four [reps] unbroken. I was pretty pumped about that. My other weakness is squatting, especially front squatting. My overhead squat and front squat max are within 10 lbs. of each other and my power clean one-rep max is 5 lbs. over my current squat clean max. That's just not normal, so we're putting a lot of work into that.
My strengths are gymnastics moves like handstand walks, rope climbs, bar muscle-ups, etc.
What do you think it takes to compete and do well at the Games?
I think [in 2012] it will involve a greater bias towards strength -- possibly Strongman stuff -- and gymnastics. To do well at the Games you have to have a large aerobic capacity, but also be able to keep moving with the heavy stuff.
In addition, you have to not hit the wall after a few all-out WODs. It’s three days long, and you could see this year some competitors missed cleans and/or muscle-ups that they never would have missed normally if the prior days hadn't been so taxing.
What is your training plan leading up to the 2012 Games? Can you share any tips or secrets?
I've been doing a lot of competitions lately just to get used to competing. I think that is helping, but I'm not changing my training schedule at all. No tapering for any fall competitions or trying to peak, just one day off before an event. Right now the focus is on strength gains, but we're also keeping the conditioning up, too by met-conning. No secrets really to share ... the strength training has been a combination of a conjugated, Wendler, and Bulgarian approach.
If you had to give any advice to any people who aspire to do CrossFit at a high level, what would it be?
My advice would be to get on a strength program early. You have to do some lifting and skill work each day, in addition to the WOD if you want to be competitive. Especially when you're first learning the movements. It takes hundreds of repetitions before your neural system becomes efficient at movements you may have never done. Once you do you will see huge improvements whether you're stronger or not, just because you're better at doing them.
My other advice would be to "kill your goats." People love doing what they're good at, but it doesn't matter how amazing you are at a few particular things, if you have a huge weakness and a competition exposes it, you're done. Oftentimes, the winner isn't the person who wins a single [workout], but the one who didn't have a weakness.
If CrossFit didn't exist, what sport or other activity would you be doing?
I was getting into triathlons a little before CrossFit, but I hated swimming and I got tendonitis from running too much, so I would most likely still be doing spin, body pump, and step class. One day I will go back into the body pump class, throw magnanimous amounts of weight on the bar and watch jaws drop for fun.
What's your favorite food?