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  • Watsu® Therapy for Athletes By Tomasz Zagorski

    Posted by Hanni SEM May 7, 2013 - 5,022 views - 0 comments - 1 like - #watsu therapy  #athletes  #tomasz zagorski    #endurance athletes 

    Photo: Kamila Skolimowska (POL), Olympic Champion in Hammer Throwing, Sydney 2000.

    Benefits of Watsu® therapy has been known and applied in SPAs and clinics for many years. In the last few years Watsu® therapy has received a new field of application - Watsu® therapy for Athletes. 


    The diversity of athletes needs are matched by the diversity of Watsu’s benefits. Among others these are: relaxation, increasing of one’s body regeneration process, and increasing joints range of motion. To fully understand the range of this application one have to understand the physical and mental states of an athlete facing different situations such as a hard training period, competition and injury. In addition, different types of sports have different systems of preparation determined by physiological factors needed for success. 



    Recovery - A crucial Component for Athletes Success


    We can group all athletes into team players and individual athletes, but athletes in a team sports need to be treated as a group of individuals. From a physiological point of view we can divide sport into main groups based on: endurance, speed and strength.

    In the training process all 3 abilities are included in the athlete’s preparation for competition. Of course endurance athletes train mostly for endurance so speed or strength are additional. Each type of training results in different kind of body reactions which an athlete describes as fatigue. Recovery from fatigue differs depending on kind of training or time and intensity of the training load. 


    Recovery is as important as training. Some say that it is more important than training for achieving success in athletics. Sometimes there is not enough time for recovery and specialists are looking for new ways to speed up and improve natural recovery processes in an athlete’s body.

    Watsu Therapy Speeds Recovery Time

    Watsu is an aquatic bodywork with a wide range of therapeutic benefits and potential healing for athletes.


    Watsu® helps decrease muscle tension and increase range of motion. The support of the water provides relief from compression forces in the joints. The movements through the water provide gentle stretching into all ranges for the spine and extremities while these joints are unloaded. It is the perfect solution for athlete’s body recovery. Warm water, relaxation, and Watsu’s stretching reduces fatigue and speeds recovery time. Watsu therapy can also:

    • Improves healing
    • Promote body and soul balance.
    • Increases muscle relaxation.
    • Decreases muscle pain.
    • Decreases muscle tension
    • Increase range of motion.
    • Improves healing and immune system response.
    • Decreases anxiety.
    • Speeds injury recovery. 


    Watsu is a gentle form of therapy performed in warm water, (around 35°C.) It combines elements of massage, joint mobilization, shiatsu and muscle stretching. The receiver is continuously supported while being floated, cradled, rocked and stretched. The deeply relaxing effects of warm water and nurturing support, combine with Watsu's movements, stretches, massage and shiatsu, create an aquatic bodywork with a wide range of therapeutic benefits and potential healing for athletes.


    Watsu promotes a deep state of relaxation with dramatic changes in the autonomic nervous system. Through quieting the sympathetic and enhancing the parasympathetic nervous systems, Watsu has profound effects on the neuromuscular system. These changes benefit athletes recovery.


    Athletes often feel lonely, being away from home and family, and usually experiencing prolonged stress that leads to fatigue, pain and injury. In Watsu receivers feel comfortable, safe and protected. They feel understood and appreciated. The nurturing touch and unconditional acceptance of the Watsu therapist all combine to create an extraordinary environment for healing. Being held and cradled during a Watsu session are very valuable for athletes who are in difficult situations. 


    Warm water prepares muscles and joints for stretches and it gives an opportunity for stretching muscles in combinations of directions and planes unworkable on land. 

    A Watsu therapist can work on bigger or smaller joints using mobilizations, roll and glide moves, tractions, compressions. A Watsu therapist can apply both stretches and mobilizations to specific conditions and needs of individual athlete in different training periods or any single athletics discipline. It is especially important during recovery from injury and rehabilitation. In addition we have the receiver’s permission for being held and the level of this permission influences the final level of relaxation. 

    Watsu® Integration in Year-round Training Schedule


    An athlete’s year contains periods for preparation, competition and regeneration. 


    1st - Preparation 

    The goal of the first period is to get into the best shape possible for the main competition. It is a time of hard training, first with high volume and small intensity, than with changing proportion in increasing intensity. Training sessions are very long and tiring. This kind of training results in general fatigue and local muscle fatigue which increases muscle tension. Lack of recovery time along with multiple repetitions of the same movements can lead to shortened muscles. 

    Watsu stretching can be adjust to each sporting disciplines or specific needs of individual athlete. General relaxation in warm water is very useful tool for recovery and prevention from being overtired or overtrained.

    In this training period Watsu® therapy session should be applied 2-3 times per week. 


    2nd - Competition

    The aim of competition period is to transform all workload done during preparatory period and using it by several testing competitions to achieve a peak performance during the main competition of the year. The intensity of training is sub-maximal or maximal (competitions) and it alternates the low intensity training with rest. This is very stressful and exhausting time for an athlete, connected with often long distance travels. 

    Application of Watsu therapy can help in recovery after competitions and it also helps to reduce stress. Number of sessions per week depends of frequency of competition, usually it is one session per week.

    Contraindications: Do not give or have a Watsu sessions 2-3 days before competitions. 


    3rd - Regeneration

    The regeneration period lasts 2 or 3 weeks, closes a year of training and is designed to repair all bad things that happened to an athlete’s body during whole year. Often there is a special regeneration camp where athletes do activities different than their main discipline and use physiotherapy and thalassotherapy treatments. It is also time for mental rest and entertainment, time for vacation spent with family and friends. 

    Watsu can be applied every day during this period. The Watsu therapist will emphasizes on general relaxation for mental regeneration, stretches and mobilizations of joints, working each time with selected parts of body.


    General Precautions

    acute illness, uncontrolled heart problems, skin problems, ear infections, motion sickness, orthopedic problems.


    Specific Precautions for athletics

    Do not have a Watsu sessions directly before competitions and just after acute soft tissue injury. During the competition every athlete has to have optimal muscle tension, in most cases it is little higher than normal. Even a single session can decrease this tension. Watsu therapist will avoid giving sessions for athletes 2 or 3 days before competition. 

    When a soft tissue injury occurs one should cool down injured area, preventing any movements in injury planes and control any other movements in two next joints. Rest  from any activity that causes pain. All these needs to be applied during the first 72 hours following an injury to minimize the local tissue damage and reduce inflammation. 

    Watsu is absolute contraindication during 3 days after injury. In addition, there is a risk of making a movement that will worsen injury.


    Watsu® Therapy has been used by:

    Kamila Skolimowska, Olympic Champion in Hammer Throwing, Sydney 2000

    Sylwia Korzeniowska, Polish national record holder in woman’s 20km race walking

    Piotr Malachowski, Olympic Silver Medalist in Discus Throwing, Bejing 2008

    Ilya Markow, World Champion in Race Walking, Edmonton 2001.


    Watsu Therapy is also used in the preparation period of Polish Olympic Teams of Athletics, Woman Alpine Skiing and White Water Kayakers. 


    Athletes are new targeted Watsu® receivers. Watsu® benefits are an exact match for Athletes’s expectations and needs. Future scientifically researches is needed. It is also necessary to teach physiotherapists, specializing in Sport Injuries, Watsu therapy to share its benefits with their athletes patients.



    Tomasz Zagorski, Watsu Instructor, co-teacher, Watsu for Athletes teacher, Anatomy Trains Associated Teacher, therapist of top level athletes, pioneer of applying Watsu among Olympic level athletes and scientifically researching in this field, former distance runner.





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