Coach Nick’s 14-Day Challenge: Volume 3

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MARCH 4-17, 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


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.

[su_box title=”Monday Bonus” style=”default” box_color=”#30bdff” title_color=”#FFFFFF” radius=”3″ class=””] 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![/su_box]

TUESDAYS: Today’s 4-Way Challenge Day

  1. No one-arm butterfly unless it’s a drill.
  2. Vary your freestyle breathing patterns by breathing every 2nd, then 3rd, then 4th, then 5th.
  3. Turn off the cruise control and swim every set with passion.
  4. No breathing off all turns, including backstroke and breaststroke.
[su_box title=”Tuesday Bonus: Inchworms” style=”default” box_color=”#30bdff” title_color=”#FFFFFF” radius=”3″ class=””] Here’s How: Stand tall with straight legs. Next, reach down and touch your fingertips to the ground. Next, keeping your legs straight (but not locked out) slowly lower your torso toward the ground and walk your hands forward into a push-up position. Next, take tiny steps forward until your feet meet your hands. Next, repeat the process 10 times through. If you’re up for it, add another set or two. [/su_box]


Here’s a thought that packs a punch – when you feel good inside, you do better. With that in mind, focus on the things that make you feel the happiest today. If it’s your swimming, treat it with tender loving care. If it’s your mom and dad, give them a big hug or make them breakfast in bed. And if it’s your pet dog Rudy, give him a treat and take him for an extra long walk. Counting your blessings makes you feel good inside, and when you feel good, you do better.

[su_box title=”Wednesday Bonus” style=”default” box_color=”#30bdff” title_color=”#FFFFFF” radius=”3″ class=””] Today is Weakness Wednesday, time to attack your biggest practice weaknesses. It could be your lack of focus, slow turns, non-existent 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. [/su_box]


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.

[su_box title=”Thursday Bonus” style=”default” box_color=”#30bdff” title_color=”#FFFFFF” radius=”3″ class=””] 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. [/su_box]


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.

[su_box title=”Friday Bonus” style=”default” box_color=”#30bdff” title_color=”#FFFFFF” radius=”3″ class=””] If you want to be the best you must be willing to surpass the rest, so today’s challenge is to move up one spot in your lane by out-swimming the person ahead of you. They may not like it, but if you’re faster than them, you deserve to swim ahead of them. [/su_box]


There are three kinds of swimmers in the world, those stronger than their size, those weaker than their size, and those somewhere in the middle. Clearly, Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel have more strength than size giving them a substantial competitive edge. By gaining muscle, you’ll explode off your starts and turns, pull and kick more water, and improve your body position in all four strokes. To start, give this three-part challenge a try:

Elbow-In Push-Ups

Here’s How: Assume a push-up position with your head in a neutral position, your hands beneath your shoulders, your body squeezed tightly together, and your toes resting on the ground. Next, press your upper arms tightly against the sides of your upper body with your elbows pointing backward. Next, perform push-ups to failure or until you can no longer maintain proper form. Next, rest for one minute and repeat the challenge twice more.

Double-Leg Lowering

Here’s How: Lie face up with your legs raised ninety-degrees off the ground and your arms at the sides of your body. Next, slowly lower your legs making sure that they remain straight at all times and continue as long as your back stays flat on the ground. Next, return to the starting position and repeat. Continue to failure or until you can no longer maintain proper form. Next, rest for one minute and repeat the challenge twice more.

Power Squats

Here’s How: Stand tall in front of a chair with your feet shoulder width apart and your arms in a tight streamline position. Next, slowly lower your butt as close to the chair as possible without touching. Next, drive your legs forcefully upward to the point where your feet leave the ground. Next, return to the starting position. Continue to failure or until you can no longer maintain proper form. Next, rest for one minute and repeat the challenge twice more.

[su_box title=”Saturday Bonus” style=”default” box_color=”#30bdff” title_color=”#FFFFFF” radius=”3″ class=””] The faster you pull your arms through the water, the further forward you go due to increased water resistance on your arms. Today’s challenge is to speed up your arms when pulling backstroke or freestyle. You may want to ease into it though because it’s tougher than you think. [/su_box]


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? Sunday’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.

[su_box title=”Sunday Bonus” style=”default” box_color=”#30bdff” title_color=”#FFFFFF” radius=”3″ class=””] Let’s get your week off to a fast start so tonight your task is to get a good night’s sleep. It may not sound like much of a challenge, but if you’re like most swimmers, you stay up well past your bedtime. Recommended hours of sleep vary with age. If you’re between the ages of 8-13, you should be getting 9-11 hours per night, and if you’re between the ages of 14-17, you should be getting 9-10 hours per night. A lack of sleep (over the long term) can have detrimental effects on your health including lack of focus, poor judgment, grumpiness, increased anxiety, loss of memory, and depression. [/su_box]

Want More?

Click here to access current and past volumes of Coach Nick’s 14-Day Challenge.