Coach Nick’s 14-Day Challenge: Volume 4

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MARCH 18-31, 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


In a packed pool, swimmers pretty much look the same, but from a hard work standpoint, it’s easy to tell who’s who. Full-time swimmers work every set to the max, half-time swimmers run hot and cold and put out when they feel like it, and no-time swimmers spend little or no-time working. Of the three, which one are you? If you’re full-time, congratulations, but if not, today’s the day to get your rear in gear. You can start by working your hardest on the first set of practice. If you’re still standing after that, do it again on the second set, and keep going until you run out of gas. In time working hard will become a habit and much easier to do.


  • 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!


Working hard in practice will get you so far, but working hard in practice with near-perfect technique will get you all the way! Today’s challenge is to implement five elite butterfly techniques while training your hardest:

  1. Press your chest forward and down as your arms enter the water, and be sure to press hard enough so that your butt breaks the surface.
  2. Kick twice per stroke, once when your arms enter the water and once when they exit, and your second kick should be larger than your first.
  3. Enter your arms into the water straight and shoulder width apart with your palms facing downward.
  4. As you pull, bend your arms halfway so that your elbows point upward and your hands and forearms face backward toward your feet.
  5. Finish your pull with straight arms keeping them straight, and close to the surface, as they recover forward.


How many fresh fruits and vegetables do you eat per day? If you’re like most swimmers not enough. Today’s task is to eat six colorful fruits and vegetables. Choose cherries and beets for red, apricots and carrots for yellow/orange, dates and cauliflower for brown/white, grapes and broccoli for green, and blueberries and eggplant for blue/purple. If this combination gives you a tummy ache feel free to make up your own. Colorful fruits and vegetables provide your body with a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants leading to better health and faster times.


How structured is your thinking? Is it orderly like of 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.


Chest And Shoulder Stretch:

  • Stand tall and clasp your hands together behind your back with your arms straight.
  • Raise your arms towards the sky, going only as high as is comfortable.
  • As you raise, pull your shoulders back to feel a full stretch.
  • Hold for 20 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times.
  • Don’t forget to breathe!

Side Stretch:

  • Stand tall and clasp your hands straight up overhead with your palms facing the sky.
  • Stretch up and then over to the right, feeling a full stretch down your left side.
  • Keep your hips square and your shoulders down and away from your ears.
  • Hold for 20 seconds then switch sides.
  • Repeat 3 times.
  • Don’t forget to breathe!


Distance off the wall and speed are two keys to a fast breaststroke pullout. Most swimmers travel far enough, but not quick enough. The 5 Pop challenge takes care of both. In case it’s unclear to you, the word “pop” means to explode!

  1. Pop off the wall, don’t push off the wall.
  2. Pop your dolphin kick, either before or after you pull down.
  3. Pop the bottom of your pull down.
  4. Pop your streamlined arms as you rise to the surface.
  5. Pop your first stroke when you break the surface.


  • 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?


Swimming drills are like teachers designed to fix or refine your technique. When you perform them in practice do you take your time or rush through them with little or no thought? The problem with rushing is that you miss the finer points, the ones that make the biggest difference speed-wise. Today I want you to take a chill pill and slow it down so that you perform your drills correctly and benefit the most.


Working hard in practice will get you so far, but working hard in practice with near-perfect technique will get you all the way! Today’s challenge is to implement five elite backstroke techniques while training your hardest:

  1. Place your head in a chin-up position and keep it still while maintaining a tight body line from head to toe.
  2. Kick with a slight knee bend keeping your knees just beneath the surface.
  3. Keep your toes pointed back toward the other end of the pool.
  4. Maintain a tight, symmetrical, continuous kick at all times.
  5. Swim with opposite-arm timing meaning one arm remains opposite the other at all times.


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’s 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.

Want More?

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