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Miss South Dakota Never Misses Leg Day

Published January 2024 | In Winter 2024

As Miss South Dakota, Miranda O’Bryan is proud to represent the state where she was born and raised. She’s also grateful for the opportunity to prepare for the Miss America Competition at Monument Health Sports Performance Institute powered by exos.

Miss South Dakota Never Misses Leg Day Media

Monument Health Sports Performance Institute powered by exos, is dedicated to improving performance. For the clients that train there, this takes a lot of different forms. Some are Olympic hopefuls, others are preparing for their first 5K. There are professional athletes looking to advance their careers, and older cowboys training to stay in the saddle. The exos team provides performance training, nutrition services and an award-winning facility to help everyone who walks through the doors achieve their goals.

“When we say we want to help people accomplish their goals, we mean everyone, regardless of what that goal is,” said Kyle Wheeldon, General Manager of the Sports Performance Institute. “We’re used to helping with traditional athletic goals, but we aren’t going to put limits on what we do. If someone comes in and tells me that they want to train to be the first person on Mars, we’re going to dig into how astronauts train and develop a plan for working toward that goal.”

Training for Mars may seem extreme, but Kyle and his team don’t judge people’s ambitions, they facilitate the work necessary to reach them.

Finding a place

That includes Miranda O’Bryan, Miss South Dakota 2023, who is training for her chance to become Miss America 2024 in January. Miranda has been training at the Sports Performance Institute since 2021. “I graduated from college and started my career during the pandemic, and I needed to find a space where I felt comfortable. I tried a few different gyms and there was nothing wrong with them, but I hadn’t found a place that was the right fit,” she said. “When I found the Sports Performance Institute, I figured I would give it a try with the one-week free trial, and I have been training there ever since.”

It can be challenging for people to find the right gym, no matter what their fitness level and goals. Miranda liked everything that the Sports Performance Institute provided, like weight lifting, the equipment in the cardio room and yoga classes. “More importantly, the people there made it such a welcoming environment. It didn’t matter where I was starting or where I was on my health and fitness journey, they were excited that I was there.”

“Unfortunately, a lot of people have had some negative experiences at a gym, or just haven’t found one where they feel at home. We’re competitive people — that’s why we do what we do, and it’s important to us that we motivate our clients to do their best,” said Kyle. “That doesn’t mean acting like a drill sergeant all the time. We find out what works best for each individual, but the rule of thumb is that everyone is welcome here.”

A different kind of training

When Miranda was training for the Miss South Dakota competition, she found that she had some needs that are a little different than what you might see from traditional gym-goers.
“I was really thankful that they allowed me to use the studio space when it wasn't being used for classes. I've practiced singing, which is my talent, in the studio space. I've also used that space to practice walking in my evening gown,” Miranda said. It may seem like an odd request, but it was important that she have a flat open space with mirrors, and having access to the sound system didn’t hurt either.

“We don’t see a lot of our clients in the facility practicing walking in evening gowns, so it was a little unusual in that respect,” said Kyle. “But if we had a bodybuilder who wanted to practice poses in front of the mirror wall, no one would think twice. No matter what competition people are training for, we’re here to help them succeed. It doesn’t matter if they’re roping, swinging bats, running down fields or walking confidently in an evening gown.”

“I showed up with a bag of dresses in my arms and the trainers were absolutely committed to helping me prepare, and I just thought it was so funny walking around the gym in an evening gown,” she added.

Get to know Miranda

Miranda is a South Dakota girl through and through — she grew up in Martin, graduated from SDSU in 2020, and now resides in Rapid City where she has worked for KOTA Territory News and KEVN Black Hills FOX. She says the three most important things in her life are her friends, her family and her cat.

Miranda’s initiative for her year as Miss South Dakota is literacy based — she wants to get as many people reading as possible. As part of this, she hosts a podcast called Page Turners, where she speaks with authors, literacy advocates and people from across the country on unique reading journeys.

The next big thing

As the new year approaches, so too does the Miss America Competition, and Miranda is committed to being as prepared as
possible. That means keeping up with her physical training. “When I started competing, we still had swimsuit competitions, but over the years that has changed, and now we have a health and fitness category,” Miranda explained. “The idea is that you’re looking at overall fitness. You need to be physically fit to sustain this yearlong opportunity, but also you need to be mentally and emotionally healthy as well. That's been really important for me to share with people. No matter what you do, or what you're passionate about, you need to be healthy in all areas of life.”

Recognizing the importance of health and fitness has led Miranda to become an ambassador of the Sports Performance Institute. “I approached them and we had a great conversation about how being Miss South Dakota and preparing for Miss America is, in a way, similar to preparing for any competition,” she said. “Not the same, because I’m definitely not a professional athlete, but as an ambassador, I can help share how important health and fitness is for everyone.”

Kyle is happy that Miranda is able to reach an audience of potential clients that may not realize everything that exos has to offer. “We’re great at connecting with the competitive athletes, but people who aren’t in that world may not be aware that we’re here for them too,” he said. “The same things we focus on with our pro athletes — mindset, movement, nutrition and recovery — will help anyone achieve their goals, no matter what they are.”

“I can’t say I’ve ever watched a Miss America competition,” Kyle added with a laugh. “But we’ll be cheering for Miranda in January, that’s for sure — she’s one of us. She’s a contender.”

Listen to Miranda’s podcast, Page Turners, here.

Written by Wade Ellett

Photos by Bob Slocum