Winning With the Right Side of the Brain

by Rayma Ditson-Sommer, Ph.D. 

One of the more important goals for peak performance stems from the research reporting that the execution of sports activity involves shutting down the pre-frontal cortex of the brain to allow the motor cortex to work without interruption. This is a direct result of the knowledge that the right side of the brain is for excellence in performance and the left is for analyzing pre-performance. Therefore, the athlete who continually is thinking about what he/she should be doing is doomed to a less that excellent outcome. By shutting off the right side of the brain and assigning the total task to the left hemisphere the outcome is less than desired. To insure a winning performance mental pre-swim rehearsal is vital. By notifying the brain that certain approaches are to be used the need for analysis in nil. The brain can then focus its direct attention to the swimming itself, by passing the left brain and prefrontal cortex thus adding greatly to the “freedom” of the brain to perform. This skill of redirecting the brain to develop better focus requires a definite learning curve.


Redirecting attention has a definite step-by-step progression. From the frenzy of the meet and the anxious feelings that can accompany it, to a state of being in the “now” or the present, calm, engaged and ready to swim. Immediately after a race the ability to redirect attention is a skill to be learned. It becomes highly important to push yourself into the “NOW” forgetting what was just completed and attend to what is now. One approach to redirect attention for better focus involves looking forward to the next swim. Not thinking about your stroke, who is in the next lane or breathing. Shutting down the prefrontal cortex of the brain by becoming input directed establishes a structure for the brain that involves the motor cortex and allows the motor memory to use all learned previously. When you state a specific goal for your upcoming swim your brain will switch from the emotional limbic system to the goal directed motor memory of the motor cortex putting to work all the practice sessions and hours of work. This approach will “pay off”.

To establish a pre-swim routine you must stimulate your mind by:

1.      Calculate consciously your goals for the present swim. This will signal your pre-frontal cortex that information is coming in to be used soon

2.      By connecting your motor memory with your goals you control your muscles

3.      Quieting any reflex involving “fear paralysis” will support your motor cortex concerning the upcoming swim

4.      These actions will allow you to enter a peaceful state for the coming event

The brain is ready for any challenge. It is sometimes sabotaged by negative thinking, fear and doubt. Using definite structure approaches to peak performance will help you build confidence in your swim. Peak performance requires attention, motivation, practice and self-confidence. Enhance your focus-attention by listing exactly the goals you have set. List exactly what you need to do to reach them, test your abilities, remember the strengths and focusing on improving them.

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Copyright: Rayma Ditson-Sommer, Ph.D., Scottsdale, AZ., July 2012. All rights reserved.