Thursday, June 13

An Editor Whose Business Is Fitness

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Molly Mirhashem is used to running around in circles — literally.

Six days a week, Ms. Mirhashem runs near her home in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Much of her weekly mileage takes place on the same, roughly 3.5-mile loop of a nearby park. Her training will come in handy: This weekend, she is running the Buffalo Marathon in upstate New York. It will be her ninth time gutting out 26.2 miles since she first caught the marathon bug in 2017.

Ms. Mirhashem, an editor on the Well desk covering fitness, came to The New York Times last month from Outside Magazine, where she spent eight years assigning and editing health and wellness articles, among other responsibilities.

One of her goals at The Times is to reach readers who are dabbling in fitness, but want a little extra guidance.

“There are beginners, who we often speak to, and then there are experts looking for the tiniest, marginal gain in their marathon time,” she said in a recent interview. “I think there is room to serve those readers in the middle ground.”

Here, Ms. Mirhashem shares what motivates her to hit the ground running — in her new job, that is — and the biggest challenges of the fitness beat. These are edited excerpts.

Were you always interested in fitness?

I am a lifelong runner. I started running in youth track and field, and stuck with it through high school. I ran track and cross-country in college, and then tried marathons after that.

When did your love of fitness merge with your passion for journalism?

For a short while after college, I worked in political news media in D.C. Then, in 2016, I moved to Santa Fe to work at Outside as an editorial assistant. That was the first time that I started melding my personal interest in health and fitness with my work. At Outside, it was broader than just fitness — I worked on all kinds of health and wellness stories.

What does a week in fitness look like for you?

A lot of people think that because I’m an editor working in the fitness space, I take a bunch of supplements, or I’m doing all sorts of crazy workout classes. My routine is pretty simple. I run six days a week. I do some light mobility work and bodyweight exercises, though not as much as research says I should do.

What’s the biggest challenge of your beat?

Fitness advice can feel boring and repetitive, but so much of fitness is really about finding a type of movement that you enjoy, practicing it consistently, making sure you’re resting enough and drinking enough water. A lot of people just don’t have time for that. Finding new ways to present the basics — in a way that is enticing to people who are not necessarily excited about exercise or running a marathon — is the biggest challenge.

Where do you find ideas for articles?

I read a lot of newsletters in the health and fitness space so that’s one place. Also, because I have been a runner for so long, a big part of my community and my friend group are runners or people who are just interested in fitness and exercise. So conversations happen organically among people I know, and then I have to do the work of looking into whether certain ideas are solid or just anecdotal. At Outside, I also had a really great stable of columnists and reporters who were on the ground, keeping up with new research and having conversations with people all the time.

Is there an article from Outside that you are particularly proud of?

I edited a column for about seven years called “Sweat Science” that was written by Alex Hutchinson. He covered the emerging science in endurance sports and exercise science. He has a Ph.D. in physics and is an elite runner, but he had such a knack for distilling takeaways. Working with him really informed my whole philosophy about the role of service journalism in this space, and how important it is to have a skeptical eye, but also to be empathetic.

I also worked on a lot of stories about the gender gap in sports science research, and how little of the research is performed on women. Many of those stories were written by Christine Yu, who went on to write a book about how a lot of training and nutrition protocols are based on small studies that don’t include women by design, and what that means for female athletes.

What song is on repeat on your workout playlist?

I don’t listen to music when I run.

Wow. Why is that?

I like to be aware of my surroundings and the outdoors. Even if I’m running the same loop of a park for the millionth time, I like to feel like I’m taking it in. Also, on a more technical level, I find it harder to gauge my effort level if I’m listening to something.

So you are just listening to your inner monologue?

Yes, unfortunately.