Gabby Reece Chats With Us About Self-Worth, Parenting, Marriage, and Writing her Own Script
A distinctly recognized athlete, author, and holistic health advocate, Gabby Reece manages to show us that she's just as relatable as the next person.
By Victoria Oldridge
Gabrielle Reece is a volleyball legend, inspirational leader, New York Times bestselling author, wife, and mother. The former professional beach volleyball player and Nike’s first female spokeswoman is the definition of both athleticism and beauty. Creator of HIGHX®, Co-Founder of XPT® and Executive Member of Laird Superfood®, Gabby is dedicated to building and leading health and fitness methods.
As I speak with Gabby, she sits against a backdrop of lush green mountains that blend into one another – a sanctuary she shares with husband, Laird Hamilton and their children on the island of Kauai.
Victoria: Our personal currency can in some ways evolve over time. What have you discovered about your own currency now, that you may not have recognized earlier in life?
Gabby: When I was younger I used my physicality to navigate a chessboard to create opportunity for myself and to be able to do things I thought I might enjoy like playing sports, for example. But I didn’t make that the end-all currency. As you move through life and get older, you don’t have to go through that transition so roughly. I was always around very physical athletes and very beautiful women in the fashion industry, and I realized that I wasn’t responding to them just because they were either powerful or celebrated or considered beautiful. What made me gravitate toward somebody was their intelligence, self-confidence, even maybe their stillness; that they weren’t always proving to someone.
When I see younger women I think, ‘I’ve done that, and what’s important to me now is that the partner I’m with is attracted to me and that’s good enough.’ Early on in your life, if you don’t put your value in physical appearance, I think it saves you a lot of grief, and if the decisions you make even in your young life, if they’re based upon what you want to do, how you want to contribute, what you’re interested in, versus what they think of me, how they look at me, if they like me, if they think I’m pretty -- when you can get to that point early in life it’s liberating.
Victoria: Like our partners, our children can also act as mirrors, reflecting aspects of ourselves that can be challenging to face. In what ways have your children been your mirror?
Gabby: It’s almost like your every worst fear and there they are. It’s almost like life’s like, you know, you’ve navigated some stuff when you were younger but you still have some work to do. Or maybe you think you’re progressive in your ideas or modern in your thinking, but then you and your kids get to a certain age and you realize part of that information is outdated and perhaps the way that your brain is hard-wired is not lining up with the way the world is today. Our kids bridge those things. You want a wise person in a village because in some ways they’re going to tell you about things that are universally true, but yet having a young person also tell you how things have changed and how it is, and how we got it wrong, or looking at traits that have worked well for a long time; that’s dangerous because you get comfortable and it doesn’t work anymore. In some ways my kids have re-enrolled me in 1st grade and now maybe I’m in 4th or 5th.
Victoria: You've been open about the ebb and flow of your twenty-four year relationship with Laird. What are some of the tools you've acquired and built along the way that help you in navigating those junctures?
Gabby: The first five years we sort of hit a bump, then we hit a bump that really had to do with a personal adjustment that Laird needed to make. You are a couple and a family, but ultimately also two individual people. I learned a long time ago not to take it personal, to learn to communicate things that are uncomfortable before a blow-up. The first five years I wasn’t as courageous as Laird because I didn’t want to be that vulnerable. You have to be willing to say, 'I’m not necessarily saying that I’m right, but I’m feeling strongly enough about this to share it with you,’ and allowing your partner the space to have whatever feelings they have that may have nothing to do with you or the family. I also think there’s a lot of focus these days on sameness of men and women -- of course we’re all equal, but for me to expect Laird to have the same feeling that I do or the same experience, that’s unfair. Everything isn’t fifty-fifty. It’s important to give our partner the room to express themselves and not hold it against them because they may be working it out and they just trust you enough to show you and tell you. There’s a personal responsibility to say 'Who am I today, who do I want to be, and what’s my strategy to do that?' -- there has to be a practice in place, an infrastructure that has flexibility to it. It’s up to us to defend our own personal growth, and allowing our partners to change and be different. It’s a daily practice -- I don’t take Laird for granted, and I wake up each day and I say I’m going to earn it.
Victoria: Tell us about Extreme Performance Training (XPT) and your underwater workouts with weights.
Gabby: It isn’t about torturing yourself, it’s about lifestyle, and how do you incorporate it fluidly into the way you live. Reminding people that it’s not separate. You should never feel that you’re on a restricted diet, switch the perspective.
The underwater workouts are about pushing yourself to the edge, training that ability to focus on breath while holding weights, and figuring our how what choices you're going to make. We do it with a much higher level of safety and alertness because it’s a lot more technical. It’s putting a positive stress on the system. The goal of my training is to be a more functional human.
Victoria: Between your active lifestyle and being immersed in nature every day, you seem to take a holistic, inside-out approach to health and beauty. What's your philosophy?
Gabby: I don’t leave my room or bathroom in the morning without being organized. It’s a way you go to the world and that’s one way that helps me go, ‘I’m ready.' Most of the time, I don’t wear much makeup or any at all like today, because it kind of is what it is and I really want to be in relationship with that because then it won’t be jarring, I won’t be running away from it. If my daily ritual is intense with makeup, I have nowhere to go to if I have a photo shoot or an evening out, because I always have a mask on every day. I’ve never been a drinker, I go to bed early, and consistency is important.
I take omegas which is good for your skin, I try to drink a lot of water but I fail there like a lot of people. I take ashwagandha, shatavari and maca -- combine it in water in the morning and take it. I exercise consistently, even if it’s only twenty or thirty minutes -- it’s what happens in your mind that's one of the biggest benefits.
I have friends who are a little older who told me that when I turned fifty all of these changes were going to happen to me, and I remember thinking, ‘I’m not afraid of that stuff but I don’t know that I’m going to be defined by other people’s experiences and definitions.’ How about, let’s see? Let’s just see what happens. I’m not going to fight the changes because that’s futile and will create stress, but how about you say, ‘I’m going to have my experience at this time in my life and see how it goes.' It’s acceptance, having harmony and grace with that. I want to remind women that we need to nourish ourselves: the macro nutrients, micronutrients, good fats. Keep expanding, use your experience and wisdom, do what makes you feel good and with those who you want to be around.
I want to remind people that the real power is in the weakness, because then we’re not trapped, but you’re also saying you’re so powerful in your scared, not-knowing self, and letting people liberate in that instead of just saying you’re ‘fine’ or ‘perfect’ every day when someone asks you how you are. The more we can do that for each other, to say, ‘oh yeah, I’ve felt that a million times, even today.’ It’s the brotherhood and sisterhood of it all that matters.
Follow Gabby on IG: @gabbyreece
Personal Site: GabbyReece
Podcast: Gabby Reece Show