Coach Nick’s 14-Day Challenge: Volume 14

AUGUST 5-18, 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. 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


A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds, a surprising weight indeed. If you factored it into your swimming, how many total pounds do you think you pull every 25 of a race? While hard to say, the total amount would relate to your overall strength, as stronger swimmers handle more water than weaker ones. The quickest way to generate more pulling force is to develop strong hands and forearms, so stand tall and place your arms straight overhead with your hands opened wide. Next, quickly open and close your hands 50 times without stopping, making sure to squeeze them tightly together each time. Soon you’ll begin to feel the burn, a sign that you’re on the right track. After 50, take a brief rest and repeat a second or third time.

Monday Bonus:

I hate to break the bad news to you, but your favorite sugary treats are off-limits today! Eat all the fresh fruit that mother nature provides – but no soda, candy, pastry, ice cream, and the like. And don’t try to sneak anything because I’ll be watching!


Straight arms play a role in each stroke. In butterfly and backstroke, the arms achieve a straight-arm position at the beginning and end of each pull and throughout the recovery phase. In breaststroke, the arms sweep straight at the start of the pull and streamline straight at the end of the pull. In freestyle, the arms achieve a straight-arm position at the beginning and end of each pull. So today’s challenge is to perform these straight-arm actions throughout practice. Doing so will improve your distance per stroke and speed.


Swimmers can’t wait to train their favorite stroke in practice, but most feel the exact opposite when it comes to their least favorite. To reverse course and improve your overall performance, turn your negative feelings into positive ones by acting as if you genuinely enjoy training your least favorite stroke. You may not break the pool record, but you’ll swim better than you usually do.


How structured is your thinking? Is it orderly like a deck of cards or messy like a box of junk? When I was a kid, my mind was all over the place, and I paid dearly for it. I’d often forget to bring my homework to school and my goggles to practice, and it caused me to fall behind in school and the pool. Today’s challenge is two-fold. First, organize your mind by creating a to-do list of your top priorities (school, swimming, and personal). Second, complete each one by the end of the day.

WEDNESday Bonus:

Today is Weakness Wednesday, time to attack your biggest practice weaknesses. It could be your lack of focus, slow turns, nonexistent kick, excessive breathing, poor streamlining, or lazy effort. Knowing your weak spots, but failing to act, is a silly mistake that limits your speed and potential.


The dictionary defines full throttle as doing something at full speed. To swim your fastest freestyle ever, embrace the full-throttle concept by maintaining an intense 6-beat kick throughout each freestyle arm cycle (even when breathing). It won’t be easy at first, but I guarantee it will be a whole lot faster than your current stroke. The next step is to ratchet up your fitness so you can swim full throttle for an entire race. Start by swimming every fourth 25 that way in practice, then every third 25, and so on.


  • Lie face down on the ground.
  • Extend your arms forward of your shoulders with your fingers stretched.
  • Extend your legs with your feet together, and toes pointed. 
  • Place your head in a neutral position with your nose gently touching the ground.
  • Raise your arms and legs until your armpits and mid-thighs are no longer in contact with the ground.
  • Gold Challenge = 4 minutes without change.
  • Silver Challenge = 3 minutes without change.
  • Bronze Challenge = 2 minutes without change.
  • Repeat 3 times.
  • Don’t forget to breathe!


Your swimming life can be up one minute and down the next. You can set your sights on a great practice, but stink up the pool. Or you can decide to swim all best times at your next swim meet and never achieve one. The best swimmers know how to go with the flow and never feel defeated, so that’s your challenge today. Can you handle whatever comes your way (school, swimming, life) and maintain a winning attitude?


  • Lie face up on the ground.
  • Bend your knees 90-degrees by sliding your feet toward your butt.
  • Raise your back off the ground in a half-sit up position.
  • Place your fully extended arms over your knees but not touching.
  • Place your wrists forward of your knees with your fingers stretched.
  • Gold Challenge = 4 minutes without change.
  • Silver Challenge = 3 minutes without change.
  • Bronze Challenge = 2 minutes without change.
  • Repeat 3 times.
  • Don’t forget to breathe!


Swim Coach is my official job title, but I also think of myself as a talent developer, meaning I develop the talent of those I coach. While I love what I do, I get frustrated at times, mainly when I work with swimmers unwilling or unable to accept their God-given talent. Recently, I conducted a private lesson with a 12-year-old boy who moved through the water like a dolphin. His butterfly technique wasn’t the greatest, but his body motion reminded me of a young Michael Phelps. When I shared the good news with him, he told me he hated butterfly. I believe his negative reaction stemmed from fear, meaning he was afraid he’d have to start training more butterfly. While I understood his concern, I felt he needed to recognize his talents regardless of his personal preference or difficulty. With that said, what abilities are you ignoring? Do you show an aptitude for distance freestyle but only want to sprint? Or do you have four solid strokes but avoid competing in the IM? Today’s challenge is a two-fold proposition. This week, list all of your swimming talents (mind, body, skill) on a piece of paper. As this is a critical step, please take your time and give it thought. Next week, take your list and create a flashy poster that highlights each and every one of them. When you’ve completed your masterpiece tape it to your bedroom wall.


Biceps Stretch:

  • Stand tall and raise your arms outward to shoulder height, gently pressing them behind your shoulders.
  • Point your thumbs upward toward the sky as if hitchhiking.
  • Rotate your thumbs back and down as far as possible until you feel a full stretch in your biceps.
  • Hold for 20 seconds.
  • Repeat 5 times.
  • Don’t forget to breathe!

Triceps Stretch:

  • Stand tall and bend your right elbow behind your head.
  • Using your left hand, gently pull your right elbow toward your left shoulder until you feel a full stretch in your triceps.
  • Hold for 20 seconds then switch sides.
  • Repeat 5 times.
  • Don’t forget to breathe!


What do you think about when training? I know swimmers who try and avoid boredom by distracting themselves, but in my view, they’ve got it all wrong. Swimming in the moment is the way to go, and that means focusing on how you swim when you swim, and how you turn when you turn. That’s what the pros do, and a reason why they swim so fast. If you find focus a challenge, I have some great news! Now you can practice at home and use it to your advantage in training. Here’s how:

  • Close your eyes and pick one thing to think about for one minute.
  • If you lose focus, open your eyes, reset, and try again.
  • When you can hold it for one minute expand to two, then three, and if you ever get to the point where you can last beyond that you’re a rock star!
  • The best time of day to work on your focus is first thing in the morning, just before bedtime, or when traveling in a quiet car.


Today is catch-up day, time to finish whatever needs finishing. It may be schoolwork, chores, or a personal matter. Loose ends may seem innocent enough, but they can be distracting, drain you of vital energy, and stress you out big time! Get off to a fresh start this week by spending time getting caught up.