What happens when a gorgeous, former professional athlete gets pregnant? She devotes herself to finding the safest and most effective workout to stay fit. That’s exactly what Gabrielle Reece — famous volleyball star, model, and TV personality — did, and now she’s sharing her secrets with the rest of us. This 38-year-old mother of two just released an obstetrician-approved exercise DVD called Gabrielle Reece Fit & Healthy Prenatal Workouts. The bump she sports in the video is daughter Brody, born in January to Reece and her husband, big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton. We recently caught up with Gabby to ask about her new addition, family life in Hawaii, and more.
BabyCenter: Your baby girl is about 4 months old now — are you getting any sleep?
Gabrielle Reece: Yeah. My 4-year-old daughter was up almost every hour until 2 1/2, but the new baby is a much better sleeper. I have to get up maybe three times a night. What’s strange is that when your kids are sleeping, you’re awake anyway because you’re always anticipating they’re going to wake up. I want to sleep so badly, but I just can’t.
BC: This is daughter number two for you. Was there anything you wished you’d known about bringing a new baby into the family?
GR: I was having a little anxiety while I was pregnant — worrying about new family dynamics, wondering “How will I love her?” — I wish I’d known not to worry about it. I love my daughter in a way that’s special and unique to her, and it’s equally powerful as my love for my other daughter.
BC: How has your 4-year-old reacted to the new baby?
GR: My 4-year-old is quite nice to the baby — she’s just meaner to me and my husband. She’ll say things like, You’re only a maid to the baby. When you have a young child and you bring in a baby, there’s a time where it’s almost like having a child with special needs. I already have a very emotional and strong strong-willed 4-year-old.
BC: What’s surprised you most about the new baby?
GR: I would walk around with the new baby, doing all my daily stuff, and then once in a while, I’d stop and look down for a second and realize that I’m not just carrying a bundle — It’s a person. I was surprised that I needed to remind myself about that. It’s easy not to take those moments throughout the day to fully recognize and interact with this little person. You think that’s going to happen naturally. It’s not about dragging the baby along for everyone else’s ride, but creating a unique experience for the baby that’s hers and hers alone.
BC: What’s different this time around?
GR: I’m enjoying the new baby more than I did the last one because of my clear understanding of how quickly time goes. When you have your first, you’re paralyzed. I’m not quite so “deer in the headlights” now. Maybe I take fewer photos because there’s less time, but I’m reacting less and experiencing more.
I noticed that my husband also has the clear understanding that this baby is only going to be this way for a short period of time, and I see him really interacting and enjoying her. It’s a gift to have a baby, and I think I’ve learned to enjoy the gift more. I tell my husband I really have something to lose now.
BC: Is it true you were playing volleyball when you were 5- months pregnant?
GR: Yeah, I did exhibitions with the AVP league playing two on two, and I committed to playing four on four the next summer. I didn’t know I was going to get pregnant.
While I was playing, I was going to my doctor’s office every week for checkups. Playing four on four, I was doing more jumping than diving, which is easier on the body. Playing did get a little harder because you really use your stomach a lot to hit a volleyball, so your body learns new techniques.
BC: Did you get any grief for that?
GR: A little, because people didn’t understand how I was doing it. I wasn’t dieting, and my doctor was checking things every week. Also, when you’ve been doing a sport your whole life, your body is a different kind of body than one that’s been sitting in an office. I wasn’t going to do anything to put myself or my baby in jeopardy.
BC: When did you finally stop working out (or did you) ? — and when did you start up again?
GR: I never stopped exercising, because the time to be strong is when your baby arrives. That’s when you’re sleep-deprived. That’s when your 4-year-old wants to be picked up.
The best way to recover is to keep moving, so I was training in my pregnancy right until my baby came. Granted, I’m not power lifting at 40 weeks — it had to be consistent with how I was feeling, how my body was feeling. It’s also an extension of my fitness level — I’ve been training for 20 years.
BC: Do you attribute a healthy pregnancy to fitness?
GR: Some things are genetic. I was fortunate that I always felt good, so I just continued to move. Being 6′ 3 became a luxury, for once, because it’s easier to carry extra weight.
BC: Your job is keeping fit. Has there ever been a moment when you’ve just said “Forget it, point me to the ice cream!”
GR: Of course! My ice cream is chocolate. Some days you’re training for more energy, and some days it’s because you want your butt to look good, and sometimes it’s because you want chocolate.
BC: Has your diet changed since having kids?
GR: During pregnancy, I craved carbs a lot. I wanted bagels. I found myself eating more stuff that I wasn’t eating before and then having to get it out of my system when the baby came.
I crave sugar. I crave it all the time, but it was heightened in pregnancy. I didn’t go crazy, though.
BC: Are you strict about your kids’ diets?
GR: I do let my daughter eat food I don’t eat, but in moderation. I don’t want my kids eating junk at someone else’s house because they don’t have it at home. I try not to put too much stress on food. We avoid sodas because those can become habitual.
BC: When you talk about fitness with regular moms-to-be who don’t work out four to six times a week, what do you tell them is the most important thing they can do for their health?
GR: I tell them to be diligent about food and sugar because pregnancy-induced diabetes is impacted by what you eat. Too many people are sedentary and eating too much sugar. If they don’t have a unique situation, I encourage women to exercise because it makes pregnancy more enjoyable.
If you do exercises that balance out where the stress is on your body — shoulders, lower back — doing a few simple things can make you more comfortable. Finding ways to sweat, release toxins, getting your heart rate up…it all makes time go faster.
BC: You make a point about your video following the ACOG [American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists] guidelines. Why was it important for you to frame your workout that way?
GR: I want women to feel relaxed. I don’t want them to think that we’re just out there as bandits. My personal trainer, Mike Monroe, and I took long, hard steps and measures to follow the guidelines across the board. It takes away any excuse not to exercise. We did it in real time, so I can be right there with you. Of course, you should always check with your doctor first.
BC: What’s the best way to work out with a baby in tow? Or with a toddler or preschooler hanging around? Not to mention having both!
GR: I just say that I’m going to commit that when this baby goes to sleep, I’ll do some exercise, not clean the house. You can do walking, squatting, little dumbbells. You can take long walks with the baby and toddler, and around every corner, do ten squats. People might think you’re crazy, but you’re already a mom, so you are crazy.
Make exercise a priority. Even if you’re tired, you’ll be less tired if you can take deep breaths and move than if you only stay at home. It’s also a great time to bond with your children. Be playful with your toddler. Do yoga moves with your older child while the baby is sleeping. Doing something is better than nothing.
BC: You live on Maui — what’s the best thing about raising children in paradise?
GR: We live six months in Maui, six months in California. The best part is that my 4-year-old can really play. She’s outside in the dirt, safely throwing rocks, digging holes, playing with animals. She looks like a wild banshee…dresses destroyed.
BC: So are your kids taking after you or your husband, Laird Hamilton?
GR: With the baby, it’s hard to tell. She wakes up happy every day, where my 4-year-old screamed. My 4-year-old is the spitting image of my husband.
BC: Do you think your kids will suffer from expectations that they’ll be gorgeous, champion athletes? How do you handle that?
GR: Every person has a destiny. All we would like to do is guide them with their own missions. My husband and I are diligent about never living vicariously through the children or putting expectations on them of what we think they should be versus how they are. Hopefully, if we can reinforce that and help them find themselves, they can be happy in whatever they do.
I like somebody who wants to contribute to this world, who’s willing to work hard, but also be healthy and joyful.
BC: What’s the surefire way to get your kid’s laughing?
GR: Just playing. Stop being the parent for one second and just play person-to-person — the kid in you to the kid in them.
BC: What’s your most essential piece of gear? What turned out to be useless?
GR: Useless would be those changing tables that are ginormous and very elaborate. Friends gave me portable changing pads, and I love them. I also don’t use the stroller much. I found a great Baby Bjorn baby blanket. I tell my friends to buy a great baby blanket, because you’ll use it all day long.
I also recommend Aden and Anais – — giant thin cotton blankets in packages of four with prints. In the summer, the kid spits up and you can wipe it up. It’s also big enough to swaddle. You can breastfeed and the kid won’t be roasting underneath because it’s lightweight.
The Orbit car seat is the smartest one I’ve ever seen. It’s real deep, can go backward, forward, and sideways. You can slide it around, too.
BC: Your kids have two strong names — Reece and Brody. How did you pick them?
GR: Reece is my maiden name. Her middle name is Viola, which is my husband’s mother’s middle name. Reece is androgynous, so I wanted a feminine middle name. I heard “Brody” five or six years ago, and for whatever reason, I liked it. It’s kind of funny — I like girls with masculine or feisty names. Brody’s middle name is Jo. Joanne was my husband’s mom’s name, and I was raised by an aunt and uncle for five years. My uncle was Joe.
BC: What’s a perfect moment for your family — you know, one of those times when it all clicks and you wish you could just live in the moment forever?
GR: When we’re all together, usually out in nature. It’s then that I suddenly feel I’m not the mom, he’s not the husband…everyone is just enjoying being together as a family. An outside environment can bring out the best in a person. It’s that moment when you realize how bonded you are as a family and not just in those defined roles. That is when time stops and stands still.
BC: Right now six-word memoirs are kind of big (they certainly are with our readers). In six words, how would you sum up motherhood?
GR: Helps you really get the joke
You can find her DVD, Gabrielle Reece Fit & Healthy Prenatal Workouts, at Amazon.