Gabrielle Reece, the former professional beach volleyball player, is now a fitness trainer and best-selling author. Together with her husband, surfing legend Laird Hamilton, Reese empowers people to take responsibility for their own health. They have teamed up to launch XPT training to increase human performance with an approach modeled after their day-to-day fitness regimen.

Reece sat down with Thrive to discuss the importance of being loyal to yourself, her best advice for combatting stress, and how to keep up your workout motivation. 

Thrive Global: What is your morning routine? 

Gabrielle Reece: The first thing I do is have a giant glass of water with Activate, and then Laird makes me a strong coffee filled with his creamers. This is at about 6:30 a.m. We try and sit for about 30 minutes in the kitchen before all hell breaks loose for the day, and create a connection for the day if possible. 

TG: Does it differ when you aren’t training?

GR: If I’m not training, then I have a shoot, meeting, or I’m on the road.  If I’m home, I would do everything the same, and on the road I may try to do some breathing in my hotel room to start my day off on my best foot possible. 

TG: As a professional athlete, it requires a lot of drive to train and compete. What are some of the ways you motivate yourself to keep at your fitness goal? 

GR: Even though I don’t compete any longer, I still train like an athlete. I heard once that you can practice things enough and make it more automated so it doesn’t take too much energy. 

TG: Can you share a time that you lost your motivation — and what you did to bring yourself back? 

GR: I have been injured enough times from sports that I don’t need a reminder of what a gift health is. So I don’t fly out of bed everyday just fired up to kick my butt in training, I just know by now that I’m a better person if I move my body and try to eat well, and I don’t need to lose health to know that it’s an asset worth taking care of. In other words, I have taken the option of not doing it out of my story. 

If someone is trying to work on their motivation, just start with small, achievable goals so that they can string together mini-victories. I also think it’s a good idea to recruit a friend to tackle a new goal so there is built-in accountability. We all need teammates. 

TG: How do you focus? Are there some small tips or tricks you use to maintain your focus?

GR: I have practiced focusing. I write things down, and I do my best to focus on one thing at a time. I try to stay clear about what is most important to focus on first, and then ask myself what’s the next thing that needs attention. Doing everything all at once means nothing gets done. I have also learned that multi-tasking can really only be done by 2.5% of the population, so I know I have to do one thing at a time. 

TG: What does your body need to perform at its best?

GR: Sleep, hydration, and peace.  

TG: Many athletes have spoken about sleep and performance. How does sleep impact your game? Do you require a certain amount? 

GR: I notice my ability to deal or not deal with things increases or diminishes directly with the amount of sleep I have gotten. Also, I find it important to get to bed early — for me, it’s not just the amount of hours I sleep but which hours I sleep. 

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone:  

GR: It definitely could be better. I try to control it, so I don’t use my phone during meals and give it a cut off by 8 p.m. However, I freely admit I need to figure out a better system for less phone time. Those emails just keep coming. 

TG: Do you sleep with it in the bedroom? If not, where does it go? 

GR: Bathroom.

TG: . Do you check it first thing in the morning? If not, what do you do first thing in the morning to avoid reaching for it? 

GR: I try not to reach for it until after I have had that time with Laird and sent my youngest off to school. Some days I fail — it’s almost like a sick calling to find out which responsibilities I have to answer too. I am reminded all the time that most of it can wait. 

TG: You’re probably more hydrated than most people… do you ever get sick of water? If so, how do you fit in hydration throughout your day?  

GR: I have a first big container in the morning, then another one in the afternoon, and to cover my bases, another deliberate water bottle in the evening with Hydrate in it. The only bad thing is if I do that too late in the day or in the early evening it disrupts my sleep with having to use the restroom.

TG: What’s your go-to healthy snack when you’re traveling?

GR: Laird has gotten my onto Pili nuts and macadamia nuts. But I try not to snack or eat on the airplane if I can help it. My digestion shuts down, so it makes me more tired when I arrive.

TG: What brings you joy and optimism? 

GR: I’m simple this way. I get a lot of joy by being around people I love, and the bonus would be to be in a natural environment. What keeps me optimistic is trying to act in a way that allows me to believe that a lot of others are doing their best. My husband also keeps me optimistic because he lives his life with such faith and passion that when I dip into any darkness, he is a solid reminder.  

TG: We hear a lot about athletes’ physical conditioning, but what about mental conditioning? How do you keep your mind strong in addition to your body? 

GR: Mental strength is part of the loop of being healthy. Meditation, exercise, and practicing good relationships and communication help with my mental health. I also believe it’s important to continue learning and growing to keep that curiosity alive within us. 

TG: What were some of the best tips for healthy nutrition your trainers have given you? 

GR: Eat real foods, with a wide variety of colors, as close to the source as you can. Eat when you are hungry and until you are full (which means being honest with yourself).

TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do? 

GR: I write things down and never sacrifice my values or relationships for any task or job. I also have been working on not worrying about the things that may or may not happen, or could arise, but deal with what is. 

TG:  What causes you stress and how do you alleviate it? 

GR: Trying to take on too much, or do things perfectly. Also, because my kids are so important to me, I often become the most vulnerable stress-wise when I’m dealing with them because I don’t have a level of objectivity. I alleviate it by catching myself and asking myself if I have a healthy perspective. I can usually — slowly — get into a better headspace. That or I have a quick freak out and then move on.   

TG: When you are not training or traveling for work — what do you do to unwind?  

GR: Watch a movie and get to bed.

TG: Can you share a time you failed and what were the things you did to grow and learn from that? 

GR: My life is filled with daily failures, because as an athlete, losing was a part of winning. I’ve cried behind bleachers and in showers. You just have to be clear about what your “why” is, and if it is something you believe in, then you keep on going. Being clear about why you are pursuing something can be a great help in the hard times. That and understanding that hard times are a part of life, and not to get thrown off your axis every time it gets tough.

TG:  What is the best advice you’ve ever received and who was it from? 

GR: “The quickest way to change your environment is to change yourself.” —Byron Katie. 

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