Volleyball Superstar Gabrielle Reece Interview: Fitness Secrets & Looking Like A Million Bucks!

Bodybuilding.com had the pleasure of interviewing volleyball superstar Gabby Reece recently on her career, exercise and nutrition secrets, and how to look like a million bucks with a hectic schedule. Learn more!

Her height, beauty, athletic abilities and fantastic body can gain as much attention as a GPS system gone bad. She's also great a role model to mothers by proving you can look like Donald Trump's bank balance even after giving birth. Having been one of the most recognized volleyball players and married to extreme big wave surfer Laird Hamilton, she knows a thing or two about keeping her physique worthy of cover model status.

Bodybuilding.com had the pleasure to interview Gabby Reece recently on her volleyball career, her exercise and nutrition secrets and her recommendations on how you can look like a million bucks while juggling your career and family life.


How has volleyball changed since the days that you competed at a professional level?

When I entered the sport is when players like Randy Stoklos, Sinjin Smith, and Karch Kiraly were all competing and it was on an upswing, and then it sort of had a dip down. Now, because of the Olympics and the restructuring of volleyball, more teams have been cut out, and larger purses have been the reward.

I think it's in a stabilized position; they still need to figure how to connect with a lot of girls that play volleyball at college and high school level. I don't think anyone has figured out how to translate that group fully into a professional way on the beach.

It is a lifestyle sport. Of course it had a spike because of the Olympics; all the U.S. teams did very well. Both our men and women won the gold and both indoor teams did very well, but how do you manage it as a lucrative business the years in between? That has historically been one of our speed bumps of beach volleyball.

You mentioned it was in an upward swing. Would you say some of that is due to the fact that it was appealing to outsiders because here you had sexy women, as yourself, in swimsuits playing on the beach?

Yeah of course. Any lifestyle sport attracts people because they look at it and they aspire to that kind of lifestyle.

Did you formerly compete in arena and on sand?

Most beach players start indoors, they play in college then go to beach. Normal scenarios are to play at a university then decide to play either professionally in Europe or move to California and play on the beach.

I should imagine it's a lot harder to play with 10 inches of sand under your feet?

Yes it is humbling. But a good thing about sand volleyball is longevity; it's a lot easier on your body. On one hand, it takes longer to learn how to jump and move in the sand, yet you don't absorb much of the pounding, so you have players like me that end up playing a lot longer because of the surface.

I thought it would be a lot easier to twist your ankle or worse in the sand

Because of the uneven surface, players play barefoot and use their feet and toes a lot more. I actually think it makes your ankles and feet stronger.

How would you actually train for volleyball in the sand? Would you do a predominant amount of various styles of training in the sand?

Yes, you have to. You have to spend time in the sand quite consistently. If I would take a couple months off, I would have to come back and get the "sand legs" back long before competition. When it's time to play volleyball in the sand you have to be there weeks prior because it's very difficult to try and recreate that surface.

As a professional volleyball player and successful model, what motivates you to exercise on a daily basis while taking care of a busy schedule and family?

While I was competing, it was my job, so I did that on automatic pilot. I would get beat if I didn't prepare, I think that's great motivation. After doing this for years and years you tend to realize how good you feel when you train, versus the days you can't train. It becomes a part of everyday life like everything else. I don't really question where I'm able to schedule my training in, it's just like everything else I have to juggle.

For me, I take the emotion out of it and it gets incorporated like everything else. On some days I have the opportunity for longer workouts, on other days maybe only 30 minutes, but I know how to get it done in that time. I think the difference in people who train everyday is they don't question if they have time or feel like it, they put it in the schedule like everything else.

Some people would think that spending time in the gym and preparing food can be time taxing and construed by family members and friends as selfish. Do you believe this to be the case?

Yes it is, but I call it the "good selfish", especially for women, because a woman on most occasions will take care of others first, which is great and noble, but in the end if she forgoes her own health and happiness, this is not productive.

There is a balance. You shouldn't sacrifice being involved in your children's life and your marriage for the sake of eating, unless you're a professional bodybuilder, then that becomes your occupation. But I think there is a way to balance that "good selfish" when you are taking care of yourself.

I think once people become informed how to prepare foods, they learn how to dial in faster instead of becoming meticulous about it. Because of this education I don't feel that I have to weigh my food.

You're married to the extreme big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton. Living with another elite athlete, do you follow the same exercise and nutrition regime?

No, philosophically I think we are on the same page about exercise and eating, but I couldn't really keep up with Laird and his training; it's a different level.

So is surfing more taxing on the body than volleyball?

No, it's not surfing, it's his training. He puts 50 lbs on his bike and does 2-1/2 hour circuits; everything is more rigorous. I laugh because everyone always asks if we are competitive. To keep a happy home we keep it separate. If we had separate jobs and training was our way of spending time together, that would be great. But since it is a part of our occupation, it's healthy if it's separate.

If we did train together, Laird would end up worrying about me. If we went mountain biking up a hill and I was behind, then I would start worrying that he was worrying about me. It would be so unproductive; I think that's how we can stay together. Plus we are both bossy.

I heard you are concerned with the environment. With that being said, do you try to avoid pesticides by eating organically?

Yes we do, but you know when you're on the road it's a little out of your control. We don't own microwaves or anything. But when we go out to eat and they warm some of the food up, you know they are using one (microwave). At a certain point we control it when we can, when we can't, we just remain relaxed.

So when you can control it, at home, do you prepare the food yourself or does Laird?

We are both smoothie people in the morning until noon. It's an easier way to get nutritional nutrients that we might not get during the day. In our smoothies we have greens, proteins, minerals, and enzymes. And Laird doesn't like to eat before training, and he makes a smoothie in order to feed himself with adequate calories so he is able to perform.

I'll eat lunch at home, if I'm around, and he will eat a particular restaurant with the guys he trains with. At night I'll cook dinner for everyone. My kids seem to be the only ones to get everything packed in their lunches.

I'm also a fan of smoothies, now you have me intrigued. Is this something you purchase or something you concoct yourself?

No, we make it, and I mix with almond milk. I don't like soy milk; I think we will find out weird things later with it because it has only been introduced within the last 60 years. Laird will sometimes use Muscle Milk.

My friend Bill Romanowski has a lean formula from his Nutrition 53 supplement line that I like. I will use greens, and then his mineral and vitamin mix which is very strong; so only a little. Depending if it's in the morning, I will use Romo's Neuro1 that has caffeine in it.

I don't drink coffee so it's a good way to get a little bang before the day begins. I also add a little flaxseed oil, a banana, some frozen fruit, and then almond butter. It's pretty thick, heavy and satisfying, but boy does it taste good! I find that when I start my day that way it takes a lot of my cravings away.

I know women crave sugar a lot more than men, so I have several friends I told to try the smoothie to help stop the cravings, and it worked. If I want to kick it up and make it a little fancier I'll use almond chocolate milk or mocha powder.

If you have to work out in the afternoon, is this something you would still have prior to the exercise? Or would you have a different kind of shake?

I don't think I would add the Neuro1. I think that's appropriate in the morning on an empty stomach, but by the afternoon you should have eaten food by then. For me personally, I have to get my exercise done in the morning. If not, my kids just eat up my day. By the time it hits 12 o'clock it might as well be 5 o'clock.

Many people take a supplement to help with their recovery post workout, do you?

Most of the time I feel my nutrition needs are covered in whatever meal I had eaten prior. If I feel a little run down or if I feel I'm not recovering as quickly I will take a shot of liquid amino. It is tricky at the moment. I am a little more sleep deprived because of my baby.

Being 6-foot-3, is exercise generally harder for you than women of average height?

(laughs). I've done this for so long and my universe is filled with women my size and larger. I've watched, and they move beautifully, they are balanced and they are strong. When I had to do bench press, I would joke that I wished I was 5-foot-2. If I do clean and jerk, it's a lot of area to cover. So yes, there are some elements to it that are harder.

Having said that, if you can get your body dialed in when you're tall there are also advantages to that, like weight distribution. I weigh 170 lbs and if I gain weight for any reason on any given week, I really can't tell. I have had knee problems from jumping, and again being taller, there can be more pressure on the joints. But being in sports it's a great gift.

I take my daughter to gymnastics because I wish someone had done that for me. Getting the sense of your place in space, body awareness, center of gravity, flexibility and connection with the ground can help immensely if you do it at a younger age.

Laird is 6-foot-3 but he moves like he is 5-foot-9,his center of gravity is very low. If you have kids that are going to be tall, get them moving, rolling around, getting down low, so as they get older their patterns are established.

During my training I try to reinforce what would normally go against my nature, like jumping, jumping into a squat, switch lunge jumping, or up and downs. Whatever it is I try to reinforce different patterns.

Many women will retire from exercise, or use the excuse that they can no longer get in shape because they have given birth. You have always stayed in incredible shape although you're a mother yourself. Now how easy was it to get back into shape following pregnancy?

I'm not going to say it was hard, because it wasn't. First of all I felt very good during my pregnancy. I trained rigorously when I was pregnant, safely, but rigorously.

People always ask how I got in shape so fast, and I tell them I stayed moving during my pregnancy. People have to realize being pregnant is not being fat.

The minute the baby arrives I believe the body has the desire to get back to its form but I think that women misconstrue pregnancy for some impaired state or being overweight. For me, I looked at it as, "OK, my body needs to do this to house and birth a healthy baby, but I don't need to relinquish my entire body to be pregnant."

Would you say many women relinquish their body because they have more cravings?

Yes, that and being tired. You have someone's brain developing in your body, and there's no way around feeling tired. There are days when I would say I'm done today. Sometimes I would crave a bagel, so I would eat a bagel, but throw away half of it.

Would you recommend exercise right up to the time of giving birth?

If you don't have any unique health situations and your doctors say it's OK, yes.

Also, right after giving birth you really won't be moving around very much, so why not stay active for as long as you can. I ended up having a C-section, so right there you automatically you know you won't be moving much.

My point is, you will be having forced time off. Once the baby arrives it's never quite the same. Everyone has to experience it for themselves but a lot of women use it as the get-out-of-jail-for-free card.

When you give birth, all of a sudden everything in your life is different. The dynamic with your partner is different (not better or worse) then you look in the mirror and say who is that? It's almost too much to deal with. But the transition is easier if you haven't completely lost yourself within the pregnancy.

I actually did real-time pregnancy videos with my last daughter. I was shooting 15-minute workouts, and my trainer thought it would be cool to shoot it during real-time pregnancy. They were shot every month I was pregnant so we managed to capture a total of nine workouts. You can find the workouts on my site at www.thehoneyline.com.

Are there particular exercise and nutrition habits you recommend for people considering having a baby?

People should get in shape before the birth, but it's not a wedding. I hear so many people who are about to be married and say they have to lose weight for their wedding.

It's about making lifestyle change. The myth that people quote, "I'm eating for two", is nonsense. You need 1/3 more calories than normal, and generally not in the beginning. A bad diet can lead to the chance of pregnancy-induced health problems. And when the baby arrives, it's common for women to starve themselves in order to lose the weight while attempting to breast feed. You need the right kind of calories to produce milk.

I always say when you find out you're pregnant don't do that much different. You will have days when you're tired; OK rest more. But eating a LOT more is not necessary.

If you have lots of cravings, try to control it. Everything is a habit, and if you get in the habit of reaching for whatever thing that you crave at 5 p.m.; it can get lain into your life. So it's just about not making things habits, controlling the portions, resting when you can, but trying to stay on top of an exercise regimen.

Can you give me a week's exercise regime for Gabby Reece at this precise moment?

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I routinely do a 1 hour 30 minute circuits.

Is that with resistance exercise?

Yes it is. It's with 10-12 exercises, 3 rounds and very little rest, except in between circuits. I don't use machines very much. I usually use dumbbells, cable machines and always including pushups, jumping, clean and jerks. You can find a lot of these moves in my fitness system at www.mytrain360.com.

On the other days I'll do some things a little heavier like squatting and foundational moves to help strength. I also like to do some cardio on a machine or in my pool. Laird has come up with a regimen we call heart-attack training. We have a weighted vest we put on and tread in water for a minute, rest for a min., etc. We also have a person come over that is a water polo player to run us through water polo training.

Do you take part of other outdoor training?

Yes, I like to do Pilates outdoor. I hike on occasion, but the downhill portion kills my knees. Sand dunes are better. There is one by our home; it's about a 45% angle. It's the best/worst kind of exercise.

Can you give me a typical day of what your nutrition intake would look like?

Smoothie in the morning, but sometimes oatmeal. Lunch - at the moment I'm in a turkey burger mode; I go back and forth. I like to eat a certain something for 2 weeks then switch. For dinner last night was chicken with vegetables.

Can you give me a typical day of supplementation?

Because we have the Nutrition 53 formula that has vitamin and minerals in my smoothie, I don't take much more because that's all that's necessary. But like I said I do the liquid amino that I have, just to kind of boost my recovery. Otherwise I'm big on omega, calcium and magnesium. I always had a hard time sleeping, so that helps before I go to bed.

Anything for your joints? You mentioned you have a lot of pressure placed on your knees.

I have taken stuff, but I need to do it through flexibility. My joints are that way because my muscles have been so tight and my patterns have put a weird pressure upon them.

I noticed on your website, you have several different DVD's on pregnancy but I also noticed that you have a program available called "Train 360" and another called "Express 15". Can you tell me a little about them?

Express 15 DVD's are all 15 min. workouts plus a 7 min. warm-up and cool down. Those were made for people that say they don't have enough time to exercise.

You can only get so many plays out of a DVD, so Mike Monroe, the same trainer that did the pregnancy DVD, designed the Train 360 system. We shot 300 exercises; he explains each while I'm demonstrating. He has designed a different workout for everyday: cardio, upper body, lower body, mix day, circuit, abs/core, and a rest day. The workouts are about 30 minutes. The system also includes a 'my space' type fitness page to track your goals.

Another thing we hear is that people don't have the economics to go to the gym or they have no room at home. Pretty much 295 of those exercises are with a dumbbell, or a ball, or bodyweight.

We share the program with Mike, or we would give it away for free, so we charge a one-time fee of $9.95. They can print out the workouts and take them to their gym or use it at home.

Express 15 is more for sedentary people that want to try and get moving. 360 programs are for people who are active but are looking for guidance to the next step.

What is keeping you busy now, and what are your future plans?

That's such a funny question. Well, keeping me busy now is my husband and children, keeping a home, training and keeping myself happy. I also write for Shape and Yahoo.

I have been working on some pretty large undertakings for 2 years. I have a project called "Honeyline" which is actionable information especially women, not to exclude men, but it is female driven. It provides real answers and solutions for what women are looking for, taking into consideration they don't have time.

Women generally take on many roles, so this has a TV and online component. What I would love people to do is create "Honeyline" in their metropolitan areas. There would be answers for those seeking a good nutritionist, a new restaurant, great pair of jeans, etc.

That's my background, that's who I am and how I can contribute. I'm just trying to stay organic to who I am and my lifestyle. I like to have my work reflect that, not try to be something so different. I go to different gyms and try new things. I still like to keep learning.

My ideal is not to tell someone how to do something, but to find a way to show them what works for them.