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Smart Play: Gabrielle Reece

Volleyball legend Gabrielle Reece blends fitness, family, fun – and an abiding mission: helping others embrace a healthier way of life.

Former professional beach volleyball player and model Gabrielle Reece believes in staying fit as a couple — just not necessarily in doing it together. “I’ve been with my husband for over 12 years, and he is a great person to get inspiration from,” says Reece of surfing legend Laird Hamilton. “But we seldom work out together. I think we innately know it wouldn’t work. We’re both too bossy!”

They both value fitness, she explains, and they both enjoy being active with their daughters — Reece, 4, Brody, 9 months, and Hamilton’s daughter from a previous marriage, Izabella, 13 — but for this particular pair, working out together works against romance.

“I like our together time to be more as people and not as training partners,” says Reece. “When we’re trying to be husband and wife and training partners it can get to be too much: It’s hard to switch gears from being all sweaty and saying ‘Good job, good job,’ to saying ‘I love you’ and being all romantic. In our case, not working out together keeps us happily married.”

Which is not to say that Reece believes fitness is best pursued as a purely solo effort. On the contrary, she knows from experience that having a healthy, active community around you can make all the difference. “I have a great group of friends in Hawaii — we do our circuit training together,” says Reece, “so even on the days when I’m not feeling fired up, I have accountability. That sense of camaraderie is key for sustaining focus and motivation.”

Reece, 38, came to competitive sports relatively late in life. “I grew up in the Caribbean and organized athletics wasn’t such a big deal,” she recalls. When her family moved to Florida during her junior year of high school, volleyball more or less discovered her. “I was 6-foot-3 and it was a really small school.”

Turns out, she had an aptitude for the game. But the sport brought her more than just the thrill of competition. “Once I got into volleyball, I had a real sense of enjoyment. Also, at age 15, it gave me a group — a tribe. Which is really critical at that time in one’s life.”

Several colleges recruited her for her volleyball skills. She chose Florida State University, where she set two records that still stand — solo blocks (240) and total blocks (747). After college, Reece joined the professional beach volleyball circuit, where she was twice named Offensive Player of the Year (in 1994 and 1995); led the league in kills (from 1993 to 1996); and, as captain, led her team to the Beach Volleyball World Championship in 1997.

Today the half-time California, half-time Hawaii resident stays busy as the creator of gotogabby.com, a Web portal of health information and advice, and co-creator with personal trainer Mike Monroe of Train 360, a daily program of 30-minute online workout videos. (She also has a DVD, Gabrielle Reece Fit & Healthy: The Complete Pregnancy Workout, coming out this month.)

Reece’s goal is to reach people where they are. “Train 360 is a way to say to people, ‘We understand that you don’t have time, and don’t know what to do, or don’t have room at your house to work out,’ or whatever the roadblocks are. We wanted to break down those barriers.”

So Reece kept the exercises effective but simple: “We only use dumbbells and a ball — and on eight of the moves there’s
a step — so it’s doable at home or at the gym. And the exercises are easily modified so it’s appropriate for people at an array of fitness levels.”

Reece emphasizes the critical role that variety plays in creating a sustainable workout regimen. “The minute you catch yourself doing the same thing over and over, it’s time to change,” she says. Which is why, in her own life, Reece makes a point of allowing her physical and mental condition to dictate her workouts.

If she has time, she’ll go to the gym or do an outdoor workout with friends. When she feels tight and tired, she does Pilates, which she finds “a little more restorative.” If she’s wound up, she swims. When she has all day, she gathers her daughters and drives to the sand dunes (to run and play) near their California home.

The important thing, she says, is to make your health and fitness a life priority — and to not get too attached to perfection, because sometimes, life gets in the way. “I’ve always been pretty good about being what I call ‘good-selfish’ — about trying to protect that time for myself,” says Reece. “But then there are some days, like yesterday — I was walking around in gym clothes all day, but I never actually worked out. It was a bust the whole day. And it was also kind of funny.”

Check out “Behind the Scenes with Gabrielle Reece” at experiencelife.com/videos.

Laine Bergeson is an Experience Life senior editor.

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