After bonding over their love of fitness and then getting engaged at their gym, Jamie and George Hess found themselves overwhelmed by work and family. Here’s how they recommitted to staying in shape—and how other busy parents can too.
When George and I met in 2011 on a blind date, we were instantly attracted to each other, although there’s a 20-year age difference between us. But our shared passion for fitness was so strong that it kind of made our ages irrelevant.
We immediately dug the idea of working out together, so soon after we began dating, he started tagging along with me to my circuit-training class at Barry’s Bootcamp in New York City. We like to say the foundation of our relationship formed there.
But I was completely caught off guard when, at the end of class one morning, he proposed to me while I was still standing on a treadmill. It was absolutely perfect, and we were stoked to begin the next phase of our lives together.
Fast forward a few years, and we’re married and I’m pregnant with our son, Mason. We kept up our workouts, although I experienced the usual lags of pregnancy. George was very supportive—he would go to Barry’s with me and run slow because I would run slow.
Over the course of the pregnancy, being a fit couple in New York unintentionally became our personal brand. So one day on a lark, we opened the Instagram channel @NYCfitfam and started chronicling our lives. We meant for it to be our little hobby. But then people started following us. The next thing we knew, we had more than 24,000 followers.
We saw our surprising popularity as a sign that we could help others by sharing our ideas on fitness, nutrition, and staying healthy in a relationship. We’re not dieticians, doctors, or personal trainers—we’re just two parents trying to balance quality time together with our nearly 2-year-old son and super-busy careers (I’m in PR, and George is in marketing). And we’re trying to inspire others through @NYCfitfam to do the same.
But it isn’t always easy. When Mason was born in 2015, I had no idea what to expect, both in terms of how quickly I’d recover from his birth and how we should integrate fitness into our lives. The one piece of advice we heard over and over again was “make sure you have date night.” So we felt obligated to hire a sitter for several hours and eat big, fancy meals. While we enjoy eating out now and then, we weren’t getting the workouts, or the connection, we so badly craved in our first venture as parents together.
So we decided we’d need to flip the switch on “date night” by shifting our romantic time to the mornings. Instead of hiring sitters to watch Mason from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., we started hiring sitters to watch Mason from 6 a.m to 10 a.m. This allowed us to go jogging, enter road races together, and take fun, new fitness classes. Most importantly, it allowed us to spend time together in the way that made the most sense to us, without all the empty calories.
That said, we’ve learned a lot navigating fit parenthood together. The most important thing to me, as a wife and a mom, is that I have a partner who shares childcare responsibilities. George is happy to stay home with Mason so I can get a workout in, and I do the same for him.
In terms of advice for new parents, the first thing I’d suggest is to plan. If George and I don’t calendar everything, none of it is happening. We have decided that work comes first at this time in our lives, but fitness and wellness is a close second. We’re no good to our bosses and ourselves if we don’t work out—but we need to plan ahead when to do it.
Also, go outdoors as much as possible. The one place everyone is happy is outdoors, whether it’s walking or running or popping your kid in the jogging stroller. Sometimes it also helps to set a goal together, whether it’s running a 5K or even going on a vacation where you have to wear a bathing suit, so you’re more likely to do something active in the water.
Finally, stay open minded to trying new activities together. George is a really good sport—he comes to a barre class or a yoga class sometimes even if it isn’t his thing. We like to share with each other what lights the other person’s fire. Trying new things is a fun way to ignite passion. And with classes, there’s a start and end time, and that helps you get your butt there. There’s also a built in community there, so if you keep going, you’ll start to make fit friends.