Gabrielle Reece on Fitness and Family

An interview with Gabby Reece for

By Michelle Valenti |

For Gabrielle Reece, health and fitness is a full-time job. Since retiring from professional volleyball she has worked as a model, spokesperson, writer, editor and mom. She has created several fitness DVDs including Fit and Healthy Prenatal Workouts, and she was named one of the sexiest athletes in the world by ESPN.

Reece, who is married to professional surfer Laird Hamilton, has three kids and splits her time between Hawaii and California. She recently shared her secrets on how to stay fit–and sane–when raising a family.

How do you balance a healthy, active lifestyle with raising a family?
Oh God I fight for it; I don’t compromise it. I love my children and they come first in so many ways, but unless there is some kind of life or death emergency I will not put anyone above me taking care of myself. My kids are going to grow up and I don’t want to get spit out at the end of the process and be like ‘oh my God, what happened to me?’

Do you ever feel guilty?
Yes, I feel guilty but not enough to not work out. Guilt is a woman thing–always wondering if you give the children enough time, if you give your husband enough love, are you focused enough–but I’ve learned that feeling healthy and feeling good enhances everything. It keeps me happy and mellow. I would rather be guilty and happy than guilty and mad and not feeling good about myself. Plus, I need to take care of myself if I want to be a good example for the kids.

You get a lot of attention for your looks. How do you teach your girls to have a healthy body image?
My kids know better than anyone how hard I work. They come to photo shoots with me but they also see me working at it everyday. They see me going to the grocery store, preparing and eating healthy food, and working out.

Girls pick up on everything you do. I don’t walk around flicking my hair back and I don’t complain about feeling fat; we don’t have that conversation in my house. That doesn’t mean I don’t have female moments. I’m almost 40 and still a normal woman, but we don’t obsess. If you don’t like something, figure out how to remedy it.

How do you get your kids to eat healthy?
I pick my battles with the kids. One of my trainers says the closer you can eat to being a cave man, the better. If it can live on a shelf for 50 years, unless we’re in a bunker, I won’t feed it to my family.

When they want the sugary stuff I just remind them that one Sunkist equals 12 chocolate chip cookies and would you rather drink Sunkist or eat cookies?

Do you work out as a family?
We do active things as a family, but we try to keep it fun; kids should be playing. We go to the beach, swim, bike, and surf. We like stand up paddling because it’s good exercise and you can do it with a bunch of friends.

Do you think your kids will be volleyball players or surfers?
Our 13-year-old surfs. The 5-year-old surfs with my husband on the same board, and when she wants to do things herself she’ll go boogie boarding. The 1-year-old is wide open. As far as volleyball, it’s too early to tell.

We expose them to everything though and don’t push them to do anything. They let us know what they want to do.

Are you worried your girls will get teased for being tall?
When my 5-year-old asked if it was hard being so big when I was little I say ‘yeah, but it was a great thing for me because it taught me a lot.’

My girls have confidence and they have each other so I think they’ll be OK. Plus I can tell them where to buy shoes and pants and stuff.

Do you have any advice for other active moms?
You are always fine-tuning–in fitness, nutrition, even in your relationships with people. It’s not about arriving at any one place but continuing to work at all of it.

Posted on 10/23/2013