To look at Gabrielle Reece you’d never believe she’s celebrated 50 birthdays. Of course, healthy living and a dedicated exercise regime play their part in her youthful appearance and nature, but another equally powerful anti-aging element is the close connection she has to her family.
“I believe the commitment to exercise is different for all families and the role each individual plays in the family,” says Reece. “As a working mom and wife, I tended to actively safeguard (even if it was for 15 minutes) my time for movement. I found I could easily give up or get distracted and end up foregoing my windows for training, and that I had to make a conscious effort to fortify. As far as the family playing an important role, I think as parents you can role model to your children that self-care is important since they are actively watching versus listening.
It has helped me a lot to have a partner in Laird (big wave surfing pioneer and this month’s cover star of TRAIN) who is on his own personal quest for health. If nothing else, on the days I don’t “feel like it”, I can look over to him and glean energy and inspiration to get it done. I love and adore my family, but let’s not romanticize that the family supports an individual’s self-care program. You have less time and a lot of other priorities, so you need to find a system to make it all work.”
Hers is advice worth following because one of the best things you can do for yourself and your family is to lead by example, even in the smallest of everyday tasks which you may think are inconsequential. A paper in >The Journal of Pediatrics found something as simple as enjoying a family meal each night may be powerful enough protect children against obesity because coming together provides a chance to create emotional connections while eating healthy foods, modelled by parents. And the same rules apply to exercise, because when you show your family that you’re making the time to take care of yourself then that’s something they will potentially copy throughout their lives.
New Approach To Exercise
Gabrielle and Laird have created a unique exercise system called Extreme Performance Training (XPT) which has the founding principles of breathe, move and recover. The system is changing the attitudes around exercise because it employs a more holistic approach which everyone can benefit from.
“Since the breath is the essence of life and something most of us do wrong, we really thought it was a good idea to incorporate it not only into XPT but to have a weekly breathing practice,” says Reece. “We want to always be reminding ourselves and each other to nose breathe at all times, unless you are doing something aerobic and need to recover for a bit. Plus, we love the fact that breathing is free, and you can do it anywhere. Move is the second principle for XPT because our organism is meant to move. It is not about us telling you how to move, it’s about trying our best to find things that we can do on a regular basis, try not to hurt yourself in the long run, but continue to adapt so you can find ways to keep making progress. Laird is great for trying new things and is always willing to be curious and a beginner. Recover, was not just about taking a day off, but participating in your recovery, or having an “active” recovery. This is where the heat, ice, and breathing have all come into play. We just wanted to remind people to support themselves with helpful modalities to accelerate and support their recovery.”
The advice on breathing is becoming ever more accepted in the mainstream scientific community and research in the journal, >Psychophysiology found focusing on your breathing actually strengthens your aptitude to focus on tasks thanks to a clear neurophysiological link between breathing and attention. This means being able to concentrate on what your lungs are doing can have a very powerful impact on your mental well-being and positive outlook.
There will never be a yellow brick road that guides you an easy route to exercise and healthful living. Instead, scheduling exercise is something everyone has to work towards making a priority.
“Like everyone I have had my own hills to climb (a few bumps in childhood, not living with my parents for several years, my dad dying when I was five) and then as an adult the usual trials and tribulations of injuries (knee surgeries, knee replacement, C section ), children (we have three daughters), work, and the desire to not only keep your family thriving but somehow not let the individuals be forgotten within the whole,” says Reece. “I try not to give advice because I respect that everyone is different and has varying capacities for things that may come up in life. All I try to do is focus on what is positive, learn from what is challenging, and to do my best to accept the circumstances that are genuinely out of my hands. The reason I try to take care of my health is because it does seem to be one of the best strategies to respond as calmly as I am able, or in the best way possible.”
Therein lies some of the soundest advice for time and stress management that you’ll ever receive because when things seem out of control, you still have the opportunity to be in charge of the exercise you do and foods you eat. To exert this kind of control, people who live in the moment while planning for the future are best at reducing their daily stress levels, says research at North Carolina State University. Worrying about the future never helped anyone. Instead, deal with what’s in front of you and line up a solution for what may come if you want to feel and look healthier.
It’s far too easy to blame someone else for your failings, saying that it’s your parents, work situation or neighborhood’s fault you’re where you are physically or mentally. If this is you, then accountability could be your new BFF that’ll help you make progress.
“People always think that they inherit their genetics, and this is true, but what they really inherit are their family’s lifestyles,” explains Reece. “It’s key to try to establish those best practices early or always remember that even as a young adult or adult you can choose whatever lifestyle you think best serves you. Maybe someone’s parents didn’t know better, but that doesn’t mean you’re sentenced to a life of their choices. We can get educated, put a system in place that supports our health, and express the best parts of whatever genetics we did inherit. As far as being in the best shape of your life when you’re older, the truth of the matter is it’s all about consistency. Consistency and better choices with food, getting to bed early, moving your body, managing stress, and hopefully having fulfilling and loving relationships that support you overall. I also am a big believer in having a pursuit and positive challenge to keep us inspired.”
Stress used to be something that other people faced, but now it’s not normal if you aren’t riddled with it because 75% of adults experience moderate to high levels thereof, according to research by the American Psychological Association. This means that if you want to excel in anything, you need to find a way to be calm.
“It’s really important that people consider their individual physiology, where they are at in their lives, their stress load, what time of the year it is,” suggests Reece. “Given all of that, I think there are core fundamentals to performance and positive aging. Recovery, hydration, finding ways to be explosive without crushing your joints like pool training, eating enough of the right kinds of food with diversity, finding ways to manage inflammation or certainly have habits to minimize inflammation. One of the ways I do this is to avoid hard seed nut oils and tons of sugar. There’s a lot of data that shows it is hard to alkaline the system through food and that more and more having a breathing practice and using oxygenation to alkaline the system may be the truest opportunity. For me, beating stress is why I train and try to eat healthy because it gives me a fighting shot (the armor) at having a somewhat decent perspective to manage all the BS that generally is not important, but somehow gets your goat. Not to mention the old wives’ tale of taking a few deep breaths. What you come to find out is that there is something correct about it taking 10 deep breaths, but what they’re saying is take 10 deep breaths and you’ll be in your parasympathetic system.”
This is a fail-safe technique that’s always been practiced and can be applied anywhere and anytime to heal your hurts. Make it a habit and you’ll soon enjoy a life that’s calmer from the inside out.
Gabby is a former athlete so has many years of practice with a healthy eating plan. What’s important is the process of equating how you feel with the foods you eat and to do this regularly enough to embrace the cause and effect.
“I have a coffee in the morning loaded with healthy fats, a light lunch (sometimes I skip it) and dinner with high-quality animal protein and vegetables,” she explains. “We try to stick to mostly plants and humane animals. I will say that on occasion I do enjoy popcorn (popped in coconut oil) and chocolate. For me it’s just about the highest quality foods. So, if you have a farmer’s market near you, eat the vegetables from there because those are the ones that taste the best. If you are going to eat animal protein, then get it from a place that’s doing it humanely because not only is it healthier for you, but it does taste better. Basically, just get the real stuff whenever you can and don’t stress out if you’re in a situation where that’s not the case.”
It’s important to realize your diet will never be perfect, so stop trying to achieve this end result. Simply aim to do the best with what you have within the time you have available.
With such an athletic family, they’ve cultivated a culture of improvement and progression within their household, but this hasn’t come without work.
“Like every household, our children don’t listen to us and have their own sense of how to do thing,” she says smiling. “I think it’s natural for kids to take what resonates from your behavior and then do the rest themselves. I think personally going past your comfort zone is imperative for growth and to try to do it in a productive way and as much as possible as a family unit, I think the most important thing is pushing it to try to keep the communication as open as possible. That in itself can be uncomfortable and challenging.”
Therein lies the vital ingredient for success: communication. Make sure your channels are always open within your family unit and you’ll soon begin to enjoy the rewards the same way that they’ve lifted up Gabrielle’s life to such great heights.