Makenna Myler went viral back in 2020 when she ran a mile in under six minutes while she was pregnant with her first child. So, when she was nine months pregnant with her second child, she decided to do it again — only this time she did it faster.
In February the 30-year-old professional runner once again ran a race while heavily pregnant, completing her mile-long run in five minutes, 17 seconds — shaving eight seconds off the 5:25 mile she ran in 2020 during her first pregnancy.
Myler, who is due to give birth on March 15, tells Yahoo Life that she "can't imagine not running during pregnancy."
A runner for Asics since July 2021, Myler decided to run a race at nine months pregnant again because she and her coach, Ryan Hall — who she hired at the beginning of her pregnancy — wanted to see how her training is progressing. "The mile from my first pregnancy was an easy comparison," she says.
Myler says she hadn't raced the mile in over a year, and it was a little jarring when she did it at the Soka University Indoor Qualifier meet. "I had to remember that running four laps has to hurt right away, or you're not going to run fast enough," she says. "I ran too slow the first lap, and then realized I shouldn't be feeling this at ease. The last three laps were much harder."
But Myler says that her body also helped her regulate herself. "The internal governor will not allow you to push to 100%," she says. "She's smart enough to never allow the baby any danger. It feels weird trying to go all out, and still having about 10 to 15% in the tank at the end, knowing there was just no way for you to spend it. Our bodies are incredible." (Worth noting: She came in fourth out of 29 runners.)
While Myler's time and placement are impressive, her fastest non-pregnant mile is four minutes, 37 seconds.
As with her first child, Myler has continued to train throughout her pregnancy, albeit with some adjustments. "I've been training less like a marathoner, and more like I'm about to do a 5K," she says. "More speed workouts, still 60-minute runs and long runs in between. I've also added in a bit more cycling on the trainer this time, and a lot more regimented Olympic weight lifting. The weights prevent injury, strengthen joints and keep me poppy, even with 25 extra pounds."
While most people in the comments of Myler's Instagram post cheered her on and shared words of encouragement, others questioned the safety of running that fast during pregnancy. It's important to point out that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) encourages women with uncomplicated pregnancies to "engage in aerobic and strength-conditioning exercises before, during and after pregnancy." ACOG also includes this note for athletes: "Vigorous-intensity exercise completed into the third trimester appears to be safe for most healthy pregnancies."
Doctors agree that it's safe for competitive runners to keep training during pregnancy if they feel comfortable with it. "My general recommendation to athletes in pregnancy is to continue most of their training without any significant changes with the caveat that, if they're starting to feel unsteady and at risk for of abdominal trauma, avoid that during pregnancy any time after 16 weeks," Dr. Kirstin Leitner, assistant professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Perelman School of Medicine – University of Pennsylvania, tells Yahoo Life. "Otherwise, they're fine to keep running."
Myler says her lower back hurt when she was done with the race, but she otherwise felt good. "I got excited for a second that labor was coming, but [I] just felt uncomfortable for an hour or so," she says.
Myler says it's important to her to challenge the notion of what women can accomplish during pregnancy. "I have a decent following of women who are either mothers, or candidates to be mothers, and are at least partially involved in the running world," she says. "I want everyone to know — but particularly this slice of the population — that 'reality' as it's been painted for them should always be questioned. Particularly if the message of that 'reality' is some version of 'you can't.'"
But, as she noted in her Instagram post about the race, there's no need for other pregnant women to "how worthless and lazy am I?” about themselves.
"Just know that’s not the point," she told her followers. "This is not a game of comparison, and a healthy, happy pregnancy should be your ONLY goal."
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