by M. Doug McGuff, MD.

A question that I am frequently asked is whether performing high intensity training such as SuperSlow during pregnancy is safe or not. The question is most frequently posed to me by a SuperSlow instructor on behalf of one of his clients. The instructor usually knows the answer but I think I am usually asked as a modified form of "medical clearance."  I am always clear that my statements not supplant approval of the client's obstetrician. Not because I am uncertain; but because I don't like putting my neck in a noose for profits I am not going to make personally. The following statements will serve as my official answer to the above question.

The first thing we much understand is that a pregnancy is, in a biological sense, a parasitic infestation. The fetus occupies the mother's body and takes all it needs to sustain itself as the expense of the mother. There is not physical benefit to the mother to qualify this as a symbiotic relationship. The fetus will have all of its needs met even to the detriment of the mother. Like a parasite, the only biological concern the fetus has for the mother is not to kill its host. The mother can subject herself to all kinds of abuse and the fetus will do just fine. I often laugh at mothers  who will not have a single glass of wine for fear of causing neural tube defects. The "crack babies" who we thought were going to have horrible congenitive defects are doing as well or better than their cohorts with normal gestational backgrounds.  Any meaningful exercise in and of itself must be considered a negative event physiologically. However, the adaptations as a result of proper exercise have much to offer expectant mothers. In terms of high intensity exercise bringing harm to a fetus . . . that concept is simply laughable. There are conditions where SuperSlow would be contraindicated (such as placenta previa, pre-eclampsia, and other high risk conditions), but during a normal pregnancy high intensity exercise should pose no threat.

The physiological demands of pregnancy on the mother are considerable and labor is probably the most demanding activity a mother will ever go through. If an athlete knew that the most demanding event of their life was approaching in 8 or 9 months don't you think that she would prepare for that event through proper conditioning. During labor a woman will experience  high-intensity muscular contractions and extreme exertional discomfort. She will be asked to avoid val-salva, relax her face and ventilate through these contractions. The ease of her delivery proportional to her muscular and metabolic condition. Poor muscular conditioning is the most common cause of non-progressive labor, fetal distress and need for emergent C-section. Sadly, most women do not condition well for pregnancy, in fact most women avoid exertion of any type and become grossly deconditioned during their pregnancy. Such a situation makes labor much more risky for the mother and the neonate and makes it almost impossible for the mother to re-acquire her pre-pregnancy figure.

SuperSlow literally has more to offer the expectant mother than it has to offer any other type of athlete. Not only will the mother benefit from the general conditioning that SuperSlow provides any athlete, she will also acquire some "sport specific skills." The expectant mother will get to experience first hand the exertional discomfort that accompanies high-intensity muscular contraction. Proper SuperSlow instruction will teach her proper breathing technique that will break the Val-Salva/Sync association (the tendency to hold your breath, and push against a closed glottis as muscular contraction becomes severe). Lamaze classes attempt to teach this technique without the accompanying exertional discomfort. . . this is like trying to practice leg press by breathing hard and fast.  With SuperSlow the expectant mother will have multiple rehearsals at deep concentration, following of instruction and proper  breathing in the face of intense muscular contraction and severe exertional discomfort. Of the SuperSlow instructors who read this article, how many of you have heard your female clients proclaim "this is just like labor?" Ideally, the expectant father could state his own SuperSlow program and the couple could be taught to instruct each other. This would make the father a much more effective birthing coach, putting him in the throws of exertional discomfort while she attempts to coax proper behavior. Empathy from both sides of the fence will improve cooperation and performances of the husband and wife in the birthing suite.

SuperSlow is not only "OK" to perform during pregnancy; in my opinion it is the perfect preparation for pregnancy. It is so well suited to prepare for pregnancy that I feel it should become the "standard of care" for pre-partum and perinatal preparation. In certain exceptions such as pre-eclampsia or preterm labor SuperSlow would have to be discontinued; but in the vast majority of cases it is neglectful not to do SuperSlow. To go into pregnancy not availing yourself of this prenatal care, in my opinion, is much worse than having the occasional glass of wine or cup of coffee. The risk to the fetus and mother from a difficult labor as a result of poor muscular condition are much greater than the risks that all mothers currently take much more seriously. Someday I hope it will be considered medically and socially unacceptable to not perform SuperSlow in preparation for pregnancy and labor.