Gabby Reece Says Don't Compare Her to Her Husband

Jeanne Sager

Gabby ReeceGabby Reece has personified grace in motion between years as both professional volleyball player and model, but the mother of three is spending the summer trying to woo workout partners in a new way:

By admitting it isn't that easy.

In a series of Lighten Up Your Summer videos for MSN's Glo, Reece recently tackled trying to take the chore out of workouts using the common denominators in life: friends, your kids toys, your own backyard.

Reece spoke with The Stir about what exercise has done for her marriage with pro surfer Laird Hamilton and the other relationships in her life and why women need to stop comparing themselves to men.

You really put the focus on making working out fun. Has working out always been fun for you?

You know sometimes the fun is after even, like the feeling. I think fun gets redefined. Sometimes the fun is just gathering with a bunch of people. Sometimes the fun is learning something new. The fun can be feeling good about having dedicated some discomfort to something.

When I say fun it isn't like ooooh, we're going to work really hard today and I expect you to think of that part of it is fun. There's a lot of ways to define it.

I think maybe because of playing sports and spending a lot of time training, I've learned to play that game with myself.

Do you generally work out in tandem with other people?

I do. It creates a kind of fail-safe system where for one, you have to show up. Two, generally everyone is ebbing and flowing in different times so if you have a lot of energy you can kind of push your friends along or on days you're just a little bit down they can kind of push you along.

Most of my friends are very busy moms and working people. So what this also does is create sometimes the only time I see my friends.

I think it's a very strong bond with people that they don't even realize. When someone's there and you get that sense that they're kind of "for" you, they want you to do good, it creates a different kind of friendship.

Laird is an athlete too, do you work out together?

It's funny; not too often, but for example today -- we have a large-size pool. You think it's large to be large, but it was large so we can train in it. So today I trained with his group, and I've become like the student to him.

Otherwise it's only really specific types of training that we'll do together.

I think it's better. We see each other enough as it is; it's good to have that time. He trains with men; I train with women.

He's certainly at a different level than I am as an athlete.

Is there a major difference in your workout because you're a woman or because you're doing different sports?

I always say it takes the female athlete to understand the true physical differences and natural superiority that men have in certain physical ways.

I know how strong I am and how hard I work and where I fall in women as far as athletics and strength but I know what a completely different universe I am from men.


Yeah, they have testosterone, the shapes of their body, the fact that they have muscle, the amount of power they can generate very quickly, how quick they are. Besides ultimate marathons where women start to win.

I think it's fine. It is what it is. I can take a very good male college volleyball player and take the number one women's professional volleyball player and there isn't even a comparison at that level.

It isn't a big deal. They couldn't have babies. We're built this way for reasons!

You can be fast and strong and excellent at all these things, but to compare yourself to a man is not realistic.

Do you think women are pushing themselves too hard?

I don't think a lot of women are truly in touch with how different we really are. I am because when I train I'm in my male side, and I've been around certain female athletes who were superior and were still nowhere near.

And then I live with Laird, and Laird is, you know, an exceptional athlete. He's exceptional for an exceptional male.

He's very strong. He has a lot of endurance. He's flexible. Pain, discomfort, he doesn't shy away from it. He's a creative athlete, and so on top of it he's looking for different ways to be physical.

Is that intimidating?

Oh it's very inspiring. Listen, I'm 40, at this point in my life, after over 20 years of serious training you want to be around someone who you look and say, "Wow, that is a great idea."

I find him to be very inspiring because he's going and moving and continually trying to improve and enjoy it.

When I get up and when I live with someone like that day in and day out. It reminds me to not be shackled to "oh, I'm this age." He's never complacent. It's one of the things I'm very drawn to him for.

It's like having a partner who every night when you go to bed they're reading. It's the same thing. It's like a partner who says I'm going to go online and take a class or I'm going to pick up a new musical instrument, just something new where you're always willing to be a student and to just try something else.

I know what you mean. I had given up working out the other night and my husband was still at it, so after 5 minutes of watching him I felt like I had to get back up and show I could still do it.

It's the same for me. It's not like on some primal level I'm trying to match him, but I'm definitely trying to keep it together because he is really keeping it together.

So is the ultimate gym buddy somebody who is in better shape than you?

Oh he's in way better shape than me. But it's different. Just as a physical partner, as a match, your partnership as a male and a female, I'm motivated to be in my best self also because I see him doing that.

He's not sitting on the couch getting a huge beer gut. And it isn't about the aesthetic. That's a byproduct, but it's your partner. You know, I've been with him almost 15 years, and part of it is harmony, communication, and your moral system, your value system, stuff like that. But part of it is your physical match.

When you're in the gym and your husband keeps going, there's a part of you that just ... it's not like women who say they want to look hot for their guy and they're doing all this weird stuff to get his attention. It's more like keeping a parallel flow.

Is it better for your marriage in the long term?

It's better because individually we're more happy. The joke sometimes has been when we get on each other's nerves is "Don't even talk to me, you're just lucky I like looking at you!" But that's not even that.

It's that I'm more relaxed when I exercise and train. Your brain is balanced, you get endorphins. I think you can deal with your children better and stress better. You have more energy.

I think sometimes people look at my husband and me and say, "Oh, you're the perfect match, you're both really tall and you have blond hair and you're so fit" and it's like yeah, that reaaaaally makes a marriage work, that we're tall.

Even though there's something to that, it's much larger things that my husband and I agree on. But having said that, I think that being healthy is something that's very valuable to both of us.


Are you and your partner on the same fitness page?


Image by Andrew Eccles

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