Coach Nick’s 14-Day Challenge: Volume 12

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JULY 8-21, 2019

Ready to Swim Faster?

The average swimmer gets average results, and that’s why they’re average. But who wants that? I want far better for you, so I created my 14-Day Challenge – a collection of mental, technical, and physical tasks designed to speed you up so you can kick butt in the pool. I’ve used it with hundreds of PEAK swimmers, and it really works! Over the next 14 days, I’ll give you one primary task to complete each day, and I’ve added a second just in case you’re super ambitious and hunger for more. To obtain the most benefit, you’ll need to give it your all, so that means you can’t ever skip a day. Once the 14 days are up, I’ll send you a new set of tasks, and I’ll continue to do so for the next 11 months! Sounds like fun, huh? It is if you happen to think that swimming fast is fun. You’ll notice that each challenge is repeated a second time in the second week. I did that on purpose because of an all-important training concept called repetition, which means duplicating something that’s good for you to maximize results. My 14-Day Challenge isn’t for the faint of heart – so you’re either in, or you’re out, and if you’re in, let’s begin!

Challenge Menu


Do you have ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts) in your head? They’re destructive little things that can make your life miserable. A UCLA study found that people with ANTS were more likely to feel sad and depressed, be highly self-critical, and less successful. Avoiding ANTS altogether is easier said than done, but there are ways to minimize their effect. While there are many types, I only want to focus on one today. It’s called catastrophizing, or taking a little problem and turning it into a much bigger one. The first step to overcoming ANTS is to catch yourself in the act, and the second is to replace your negative thoughts with more rational thoughts. Here are a few examples:

Event: Today I didn’t do a personal best time in my 100-freestyle, so I’ll never get to swim in college.

Your Response: You’re only a freshman in high school, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to swim the 100-freestyle and improve your time.

Event: I can’t swim a 200-butterfly, and I’ll be so far behind that the meet will be over by the time I finish!

Your Response: It’s only eight lengths of the pool. You did forty lengths of butterfly in practice the other day. Just relax and do what you trained yourself to do.

Event: My coach must be mad at me, because she looked the other way when I walked into practice today.

Your Response: My coach must have other things on her mind.

Monday Bonus:

If you breathe every stroke in butterfly, make it every two; and if you breathe every two, make it every three.


If I had a son or daughter in swimming who was “vertically challenged,” I’d encourage them to compete in distances 200-yards/meters and above, because size can be a factor in sprint events. It is not uncommon for taller swimmers, who are less physically and technically prepared, to beat shorter swimmers, who are more physically and technically prepared, due to a longer reach and bigger muscles. Distances of 200-yards/meters and up can level the playing field, allowing smaller swimmers to gain the upper hand through superior technical and physical preparation. Did you know that the average height of elite-level female 50 freestylers is 5-foot, 11-inches and the average height of elite-level male 50 freestyles is 6-foot, 5-inches? While you can’t do anything about your height, you can do something about your preparation, so today train like your best events are 200 and above.


Strong abs are essential for a healthy back and fast swimming. In a study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise, researchers rated Bicycles the most effective exercise for abs.


Step 1: Lie face up on the ground with your knees bent, your feet flat on the ground, your fingertips placed against the sides of your head, just behind your ears. Pull your abs into your spine. Slowly lift your feet off the ground, one at a time, and bend your knees until they’re over your torso. Then raise your upper body until your shoulder blades are no longer touching the ground.

Step 2: Extend your left leg as you bring your left shoulder toward your right knee. Keep your arms wide apart and in line with your ears. As you bring your left leg back into your body, extend your right leg and bring your right shoulder toward your left knee. Your upper body should remain raised off the ground with your abs pulled into your spine.

Step 3: Continue alternating your legs, as if you’re pedaling a bicycle, while simultaneously rotating your torso toward your bent knee. Breathe normally throughout.

Step 4: Perform four sets, each until failure.


There are two types of swimming knowledge, external and internal. One comes from the outside of you whereas the other comes from the inside of you. Your coach is your primary source of external knowledge, as they are responsible for teaching you the nuts and bolts of fast swimming. But learning from them is only part of the process, as you must also learn from yourself by listening to your inner voice. At a recent clinic in Los Angeles, I asked the participants what their “insides” told them about what they needed to do to get better, and their answers were quite revealing. One said that they needed to be more positive, another more disciplined, and yet another more focused. Today’s challenge is to listen to your inner voice, find out what (if anything) needs fixing, and put together a plan of attack.

WEDNESday Bonus:

In backstroke, hold your breath for one or two stroke cycles off each breakout.


Kathleen Baker spent a good portion of her 100-backstroke race underwater in her gold-medal victory at the 2017 NCAA Championships. Her time was 49.84 seconds with 23.13 seconds spent underwater or almost 50%. At the same competition, Caeleb Dressel spent around 40% of his time underwater in his gold-medal victory in the 100-butterfly. His time was 43.58 seconds with 18.60 seconds spent underwater. The quality of the time spent underwater is key to your swimming success, especially in the butterfly and backstroke events. Therefore, you must challenge yourself to maintain a hyper-streamline position off every wall in practice while maximizing your speed and distance. If you currently perform five body whips, make it six. Once you can do six, make it seven. Keep going and growing until you’re unstoppable!


You may not have thought of it before, but every time you sit down, you’re performing a squat. Improving muscle strength in your lower body is a great way to improve your starts, turns, and kick (in all strokes). In a survey of 36,000 ACE-certified fitness professionals, squats were rated number one for toning your glutes (butt muscles).


Step 1: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, your legs straight with your knees slightly bent, your abs somewhat contracted, your arms at your sides, your chest slightly lifted, your shoulders relaxed, your chin parallel to the ground and your eyes facing straight ahead. Keep your abs pulled in toward your spine to protect your lower back, maintain balance and correct form. Your weight should be over your heels at all times and not over the front of your feet.

Step 2: As if sitting in a chair, bend slightly forward at your hips, keeping your torso straight, and lower your body by bending your knees, reaching backward with your butt. At the same time, extend your arms in front of you (parallel to the floor), gently reaching forward with your fingertips. Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Pause briefly in this lowered position, then contract your glutes and push into the floor with your feet. Slowly raise your body back into the starting position. Breathe normally throughout.

Step 3: Perform four sets, each until failure.


First of all, fear isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because if you didn’t have any, you might walk into a lion’s den or venture too close to the edge of a cliff! But swimming fear is an entirely different matter because it can mess with your confidence and sabotage your performance in the pool. The first step to overcoming it (be it training or swim-meet related) is to examine it under a microscope in hopes of gaining a better understanding. Try and figure out the cause of your fear and how it stifles your swimming. Next, look at it logically (free from emotion). Then, envision your life without it and how it would change things for the better. Finally, face up to your fear whenever it appears, because the more often you do, the less control it will have over you. Your challenge today is to go through the process as outlined above.

FRIday Bonus:

If you breathe every two strokes in freestyle, make it every three or four. 


If you were to watch the women’s and men’s 100 and 200-backstroke final and the 100 and 200-freestyle final from the 2016 Olympic Games, you’d notice a common trait amongst all eight finalists. What’s that? They maintain a boil kick from start-to-finish, which means a robust 6-beat kick that takes place just below the water’s surface. Kicking in this manner guarantees an ideal body position and full speed from the legs. To add this Olympic skill to your repertoire, you must commit to kicking like crazy in practice. Why not get started today?


Find fun and creative ways to eat more veggies today, like adding them to an omelet for breakfast, on your favorite lunchtime sandwich, or with pasta for dinner tonight. Good news – dessert can remain a veggie-free zone.


Are you going sideways in practice or taking giant steps towards your goal? Honesty is the best policy when it comes to peak performance in the pool, so today I want you to do just that. Reflect over your entire week of swimming and ask yourself this simple question, “Did I train up to my full potential in every way possible?” If you answer “yes,” give yourself a big pat on the back; but if you answer “no,” give yourself a big kick in the butt and vow to do a better job next week.


Relax by going for a walk in nature today. Count your blessings and love yourself for who you are.