February is a month of love, but how often do you nourish your relationship with yourself? We’ve spoken to our favorite self-care gurus about their favorite ways to boost their self-love: you deserve your own attention as much as anyone else.

Today we speak with fitness fanatic, and one half of the Instagram duo @NYCFitFam, Jamie Hess, about how she uses exercise to increase her self-love.

Splendid Spoon: Hi Jamie! Tell us why you started NYCFitFam.

Jamie Hess: My husband George and I met on a blind date, and immediately discovered our shared love of fitness. There’s a 20 year age difference between us, but that melted away when this particular topic came up — it bonded us. Fast forward a few months, and George proposed to me on a treadmill at Barry’s Bootcamp. It was the perfect setting! The proposal started our public-facing persona as a “fit couple,” and gave way to @NYCfitfam. We now use our Instagram account to talk all things fitness, nutrition, and mindfulness.

SS: How has your love for working out improved your sense of self-love?

JH: I grew up perpetually tortured by the number on the scale, and waffled between overweight and underweight. When I met George, we began to look at fitness not as a weight management tool, but as a lifestyle and chance to build community. It changed everything. It reframed the way I viewed exercise and movement in general, making it a passion, not a chore. The fact that I’m in better shape now than when I was 18 is a bonus!

SS: What does self-care mean to you?

JH: I work as a PR executive and I’m very ambitious. This often translates into anxiety. For me, self-care is about being present. It may be a two-minute guided meditation to get grounded before a meeting, or going to a spin class and focusing on just being there, or not going to a spin class so I can take time to organize my day. Quieting the noise in my head long enough to get in touch with my inner energy and determine what I really need, is a daily challenge to me.

SS: How do you use exercise as a form of self-care?

JH: Exercise is the only time my mind is quiet. It’s a blissful, moving meditation for me.

SS: What are your go-to self-care rituals?

JH: I use an app called Meditation Studio to take breaks during my day. I also listen to mindfulness podcasts on my commute, which is really soothing. I’m not a huge face mask, bubble bath girl. My self-care rituals are all about grounding my energy so I can be of service to others throughout my day, rather than getting stuck in my own head.

SS: You’re a mom, have a full-time job, and run NYCFitFam on the side. How do you manage to prioritize your health between all your other responsibilities?

JH: Schedule, schedule, schedule! My life is a jigsaw puzzle. I’m lucky to have a husband who helps me prioritize fitness and wellness. Having a partner who’s a fully dedicated co-parent makes this life workable, and I’m very grateful for that. I workout most mornings at 6am, so I’m done in time to shower and still make it to work early. Early morning workouts are a gift I give myself: they set my entire day up right.

SS: How do you listen to your body and tune into what it needs from you on any given day?

JH: One of the reasons I love living in NYC is the millions of fitness options. If something is feeling “off” in my body, or my injuries are flaring up, I won’t necessarily skip the gym, but I’ll change the approach. Maybe my body (or mind!) is craving a slow, flow yoga session instead of a bootcamp, or a barre class instead of SoulCycle. Depending on the day, I make adjustments, without losing the chance to move.

SS: How do you distinguish between exercising as a form of self-love that nourishes you, and exercising to lose weight?

JH: I try not to look at it so literally: I look at exercise more holistically, as an accountability practise. Once I’ve set my schedule for the week, exercise is just one peg and it’s non-negotiable. I try not to think about calories — I think about how much better I feel when I have a regular cadence of sweat sessions that anchor my week.

SS: When do you feel most at peace?

JH: When I’m at home on the weekend with my family after a killer sweat session, just enjoying cooking (and eating!) healthy food and laughing together. I’m so grateful we can demonstrate wellness to our two-year-old son in a way that’s constructive and healthy. It’s the biggest gift we can give him.