There is considerable anecdotal evidence that suggests female athletes come back better after giving birth, and here’s another case in point. Six weeks ago Makenna (nee Smith) Myler, a former BYU distance runner from 2011-16, ran a 10,000-meter race in Portland and covered the distance in 32:03.62 just six months after giving birth to a daughter.
That time is almost three minutes faster than her best collegiate time — an eternity in track and field; it also qualified her for the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, which begin Friday.
“I kind of knew it was coming based on my workouts,” said Myler. “It was just a question of how far under the Olympic (trials) standard I could go.”
Myler’s running career has taken off since she gave birth to Kenny Lou. In mid-April, she won a 5,000-meter race in California with a time of 15:45.48 — an improvement of some 45 seconds — and a week later she covered the mile in a personal best time of 4:42.40 — an improvement of 11 seconds.
Myler, who lives in Highland with her husband, continued to train through pregnancy — the full nine months. She did road work, including tempo runs at a six-minute pace (“There were a lot of bathroom breaks,” she noted). After her husband, Mike, bet her $100 that she couldn’t break eight minutes for a mile when she was nine months pregnant, she did a time trial mile in 5 minutes, 25 seconds (Mike posted the video on Tik Tok). Two weeks later, she gave birth.
“It was uncomfortable,” she said of the time trials, “but at the same time that mass and I move together and it felt natural. I felt confident the baby was protected in her little home.”
Myler herself isn’t certain how to explain her transformation as a runner, but she has a few ideas. Maybe, she says, being pregnant was the equivalent of doing a weight-lifting regimen — carrying all that extra weight around.
“Nothing is really proven,” she said, referring to the possible post-pregnancy benefits for athletes. “I do think if you can train healthily through pregnancy that you can reap a lot of benefits bloodwise. And on another level, mentally you kind of let go of things that you can’t control and stress about. You prioritize running where it needs to be. I’m not stressed about whether I have a good or bad workout. Your baby doesn’t care. Mentally, there’s this shift. You prioritize your life.”
Another factor: As a runner at BYU her weight fluctuated between 125-140 pounds. That’s heavy for a runner, especially one who is 5-foot-3. Now her weight is 115.
“I had to learn to lose it in a healthy way,” she said.
After graduating from BYU, she and Mike moved to Australia for a while and she continued to train. She lost weight during that time but, she noted, “I was still not running the way I wanted.” After tweaking her training regimen, she began to see improvement. Pregnancy followed and somewhere in the mix of factors — weight loss, training changes, pregnancy — she emerged a better runner.
While in Australia, she told her coach she wanted to qualify for the Olympic trials at 10,000 meters. Her coach said, “I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it would be really hard.” Says Myler, “I respect that. I love that straightforwardness. I knew there were a lot of things I had to figure out.”
According to Track & Field News, Myler owns the 13th fastest time in the nation in the 10,000. The top professionals, Elise Cranny and Karissa Schweizer, have run 30:47 — about 1 minutes, 15 seconds faster than Myler. Her goals are realistic at the trials: She wants to achieve the qualifying standard for the Olympic Games (31:25) and to finish in the top half of the field.
She wrote on Instagram, “Having a baby ... has pushed me to ask for help so I can reach goals and show my little girl that I will never stop becoming, I will never stop trying in one way or another. I will keep surrounding myself with those greater than me and I will always come off better for it. I’m not the first and I won’t be the last mama to keep at it.”