Gab Fest

The model mom serves up great advice for pregnant women.


At 38, Gabby Reece leads an exceedingly full life as a pro volleyball player, entrepreneur, former host of Fit TV/Discovery's "Insider Training," Yahoo health writer, hands-on mom to daughter Reece, 4, and wife to big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton. The 6'3" former model spoke with us from Maui as she and her family awaited the late-December arrival of baby number two.

What have you been up to this pregnancy? I actually competed this summer until I was four and a half months along. Nothing like not playing for a few years, then doing so knocked up! [She laughs.] I didn't anticipate being pregnant when I committed. I had a little gut, so my teammates would tease me: "Poor Gab, she doesn't play for a couple of years and look--she's had too many burritos and beers." I also want to help other people live healthier, more active lifestyles, so I started, which focuses on health, fitness, nutrition, sports, family and style. The number one complaint I hear is, "I don't have time," the predicament born of stressful lives. Everything I am doing caters to this--the clothing line, the 15-minute workout DVDs, including those for pregnant women [for Gabby's prenatal workout, click here].

And how have you been keeping fit? I train four or five times a week. Depending how I feel, I'll do 40 minutes of weights and 20 minutes of cardio. If I'm tired, I'll do one a little more vigorously, and save the other for the next day. By my 32nd week, I started to wind down. Normally, I do Spinning a lot, but it was too uncomfortable this time around. So instead I incorporated swimming with fins to make my muscles fire more.

Why is exercising so important during pregnancy? I like to remind pregnant women that they are not out of shape or fat; they're pregnant. It's not the time to get into the best shape of your life; it's a time to either maintain or not lose total control of your body. The minute the child is born your entire life is different--you never sleep the same, you worry about the child, and the dynamic with your partner changes. But if you can at least look in the mirror and that one person looks familiar, it helps in dealing with all the changes. The time to be strong is after the birth, when you are lifting the baby all day long, breastfeeding and sleep deprived. Ultimately, the stronger you can go into child rearing, the better for you.

What's your prenatal eating plan like? During my first trimester the sight of protein and green leafy stuff made me feel sick, so I supplemented my meals by mixing whole greens into a shake and downing it. I did not increase my calories much since I eat a lot of food already because of training. Carbs are much more attractive than usual because they are easy to digest, so I try to govern that. If I really want a bagel, I'll eat eggs and order half a bagel instead of a whole one. I seem to want a big lunch and not a very big dinner. I also found this fantastic formula called Mama Calm, a magnesium supplement that helps you sleep.

Any cravings? Last time, I got excited about anything I could put sauerkraut on. It was weird. There's nothing too specific this time; occasionally, I crave crunchy salty foods like popcorn.

Will you breastfeed? With my first, I hoped that I could get through six months. Now I always say that the angel comes to visit you when have a newborn. Like most people, I fell in love with my daughter and I breastfed Reece for 23 months. That's her personality. Who knows about this one; some children are over it at 10 months. I'll go until I get the cue that we're done. I really want to stress to all women that it's really about doing the best you can in your situation.

How is this pregnancy different from your first? Reece wouldn't come out. I was pregnant for about 42 weeks. Then I went into labor for 20 hours and pushed for two, and she wouldn't drop one inch. This time, I feel a hair more vulnerable physically because I had a C-section previously. The area has weakened a bit. I also feel a little less romantic about it. There is a different kind of anxiety. I wonder how another child will affect the family dynamic. I have been thinking more about how fragile life is. Pregnancy makes you much more human. It gets you in touch with feelings you do not normally have. At times, that's an uncomfortable process. To me, the highest state of maternity is when there is a person inside your gut. Everything you do directly impacts someone else.

Any plans for the baby's name? We don't know the sex of the baby; we are waiting for the surprise, but Reece helped choose a name. Both Laird and I have the name Jo/Joe in our families, so that's the middle name, whether it's a boy or girl. My daughter is convinced it's a boy, so she wants to name the baby Wilde Joe Hamilton. Given the nature of our family, especially Laird, it actually fits. So if it's a boy, Reece can name him. She tried to convince me to name a girl that too, but I had to explain that Wilde is not the best name for an 18-year-old girl.

What kind of father is Laird? He is a great dad. I think it may be hard for Reece with Laird as her standard. He's already put her on a surfboard, and she can drive a full-size jet ski 25 mph by herself. Dads often show you how to take risks, and I love that he teaches her to be intelligent about it, so she enjoys it and is neither fearful nor foolhardy. Another thing I love about being with him, and I am sure Reece feels the same thing, is that he's emotionally present. He sends love directly our way. Reece and Laird are very similar and speak the same language. It's great to watch. It's harder at the beginning, as the dad is often on the outside and that's a tough place to be. Now, they have a great love affair that you pray for all daughters to have with their dads.

Has your own relationship with your husband changed? Absolutely. It makes you realize how much time you did have together. If you are going to make it, you have to be better communicators. As you get closer as a family, you have to work harder as a man and woman.

How has motherhood affected you? You really learn to be unselfish when you are someone's mom.

How does your daughter feel about the new baby? So far Reece is really keyed up. I had to go away recently and she was on the phone saying, "Can you tell baby I miss it." She talks to my stomach a lot and asks me what the baby is saying. I tell her it's laughing. I think she'll be excited when the baby arrives. It has a lot to do with her age. She has been indulged with time and attention, so she's not starving for that. As long as she gets her quality time with dad, she'll be OK.

Any plans for more? Oh, I don't know ... I'll have to see in two years what life is all about, but I don't think so. We have two now [Laird's daughter Izabela from a prior marriage]. If this is a girl, we'll have three daughters.

Do you think Laird wants a boy? I think he's OK either way. Reece is enough like a boy. But it would be nice for him to have a testosterone ally, so they can look at each other and say, "They're crazy." But I think he enjoys being the king of the castle with all the angels fluttering around.

Any messages for your new baby? When I'm pregnant I tell my baby, "Be happy and healthy, and I am going to do the best I can."