Coach Nick’s 14-Day Challenge: Volume 6

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APRIL 15-28, 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

MONDAYS: MORE CORE

How strong is your core? Is it a steel bridge, a bowl of jelly, or somewhere between the two? Whatever your level, you can never have a strong enough core, so today’s challenge is to push it to the max.

Streamline Crunches: Lie face up on the ground in a streamline position with your legs together and straight. Next, curl your upper body into a crunch position with your arms, head, shoulder blades, and upper back off the ground. Hold for 3 seconds and then gently return to the starting position. Repeat until failure and don’t forget to breathe!

Single Leg Bridge: Lie face up on the ground with your legs straight. Next, bend your right leg ninety degrees with your right foot remaining on the ground. Next, raise your hips off the ground using your right leg. A straight line should form from your left ankle to your left shoulder. Next, return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side. Repeat until failure and don’t forget to breathe!

Backstroke Kick: Lie face up on the ground with your legs straight, and your hands tucked below your lower back. Next, raise both legs off the ground approximately 6 inches. Next, kick backstroke with your legs straight, and your toes pointed away from you. Keep kicking until failure and don’t forget to breathe!

Monday Bonus: THE RIGHT CHOICE

Swimmers often make decisions based on what they want to do rather than what they need to do to get faster. They may choose to sleep through morning practice or slack off in dry-land. Success in swimming is all about making the right choices. Like working your hardest on your least favorite sets, eating healthy foods versus junk food, and going to bed on time instead of staying up late to watch Netflix. Today’s bonus is to choose what’s best for your swimming no matter what! While it might not be your favorite, you’ll swim faster as a result. 


TUESDAYS: STAR POWER

A few months ago, one of my favorite PEAK swimmers called me in a panic. She was distraught because she hadn’t dropped time all season and her championship meet was right around the corner. I knew she needed a silver bullet (an immediate solution) so I asked her to name her favorite Olympic swimmer. Of course, it was Katie Ledecky, so I instructed her to watch non-stop videos of Katie racing on YouTube. I didn’t hear from her for a few weeks but when I did it was a completely different story. She had a fantastic finale to her season swimming six out of six best times and medaling in three events! When I asked her why she swam so fast, she laughingly told me that she felt like Katie on the block! Today’s challenge is to watch YouTube videos of your favorite Olympic swimmer(s). Hopefully, it will have the same effect.

TUESDAY Bonus: SMILE

Did you know that the mere act of smiling can improve your mood, outlook, and swimming performance? Unfortunately, few swimmers smile enough to experience the benefits. That’s why today is “smile day,” where you stand in front of a mirror (morning, noon, and night) and smile for two minutes non-stop. It may make your cheeks sore, but you’ll feel happier and swim faster.


WEDNESDAYS: FINISH SMART

The last length of a race is the most important because whoever wins it wins the race! That’s why it’s essential to finish like a pro when training and competing. Take Michael Phelps for example, he won the 100-butterfly by 00.04 seconds in Athens, 00.01 seconds in Beijing, and 00.23 seconds in London. Talk about a close call, but he was a master at finishing. Can you say the same? To be a champion, you must rehearse like a champion in practice, so that’s your challenge today. On your butterfly and freestyle finishes, accelerate into the wall and don’t breath from the flags in. On your backstroke finish, accelerate into the wall and trust in your stroke count. Looking for the wall is a rookie mistake that can turn a winning performance into a losing one. On your breaststroke finish, touch the wall as your feet snap together on your final kick.

WEDNESday Bonus: JUMP TO IT!

You can speed up your starts and turns by increasing your leg strength. To get a sense of what’s possible, watch Byron Jones’ amazing 12′ 3″ Broad Jump on YouTube! His superior jumping ability makes him one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. Hopefully, Byron’s record-breaking performance will inspire you to take action. Today’s bonus is to increase your leg strength by performing a set of 10 broad jumps for maximum distance. If you can still stand after 10, do another round. For safety sake, wear a pair of well-cushioned shoes.  


THURSDAYS: HIP, HIP, HOORAY

Your hip adductors are large triangular muscles located on your inner thighs. They’re responsible for drawing your legs together during the finish phase of the breaststroke kick. If you have the right amount of flexibility and strength, you’ll have a fast breaststroke kick and if you don’t, you won’t. To test your flexibility try this:

Lie face up on the ground with your legs together and your arms at your sides. Draw your right leg out to the side with your toes pointed upward. Ideally, you should be able to draw your leg wide enough to form a 45-degree angle. Return your right leg to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.

If you passed, good for you! If not, it’s time to stretch out your hip adductors:

Stand tall with your legs apart, and your feet spread wider than shoulder-width. Next, with your legs straight, reach your hands toward your right foot. Next, with your legs straight, reach forward with your hands and touch the ground between your feet. Next, with your legs straight, reach your hands toward your left foot. Hold each stretch position for 5 seconds or longer. Don’t forget to breathe. Repeat the entire stretching sequence a minimum of 3 times.

THURSday Bonus: TRICEP PUSH UPS

Want stronger triceps and faster times? Try this:

Lie face down on the ground with your legs straight and your feet hip-width apart. Next, place your hands beneath your shoulders with your toe tips resting on the ground. Next, assume a plank position with your head in a neutral position. Next, squeeze your upper arms tightly against the sides of your body with your elbows pointing backward. Next, press your body entirely upward while maintaining a plank position. Next, slowly lower your body to 3 inches off the ground. Next, continue the up and down sequence until failure. If you’re up for it, do a second set and then a third. Continue until your triceps feel like Jello! 


FRIDAYS: EYES AND EARS

Do you listen intently when your coach is explaining the workout or correcting your technique? If you do, good for you, but looking and listening is an even better alternative. That’s because coaches tend to use visual cues to enhance their message, so if you’re not watching you could miss out. Today’s challenge is to give your coach your undivided attention (eyes and ears) for the entire practice. It may be tough to do, especially if you’re a space cadet, but it will be well worth the effort.

FRIday Bonus: SMILE AGAIN

Repetition maximizes results, so today your bonus is to repeat Tuesday’s Bonus Challenge. The more often you do it, the better the results. 


SATURDAYS: COUNT STROKES

On average, how many freestyle strokes do you take per 25 in practice? If you’re like most swimmers, you probably have no clue, but if you do, it will help you to manage your strokes and swim more efficiently. Today’s challenge is to discover your average freestyle stroke count per 25. Chances are it will be somewhere between 10 and 20 depending on your age and skill level. Once you know it, take one stroke away and hold that number all practice long. You’ll work a lot harder, but you’ll be more efficient.

SATURday Bonus: BE A TURTLE

To move forward, a turtle must leave the protection of his shell and stick his neck out. Though risky, it’s the only way he can advance. To advance in swimming, you must do the same, so your challenge is to step outside of your comfort zone. It could mean going first in your lane, swimming faster on every repeat, kicking harder than you usually do, breathing less often, accelerating into the walls, or a combination of all the above! It doesn’t matter what you choose as long as you stick your neck out.


SUNDAYS: CHILL BEHIND THE BLOCKS

Inexperienced swimmers struggle with their nerves and perform poorly in competition. Today’s challenge is to practice 4-4-4 Breathing, a nerve-calming technique that will help you swim your best on race day. To begin, stand tall as if you’re standing behind the blocks at a swim meet. Next, inhale deeply to the count of four. Next, exhale deeply to the count of four while clearing your mind of all thought. Next “chill” for four, meaning enjoy the feeling of a calm mind and body. Repeat the process over and over again until you’re super relaxed. After that, make it part of your pre-race routine.

SUNday Bonus: A POEM FOR YOU – PART 2

In the last 14-Day Challenge, I challenged you to memorize the first two stanzas of Un-Limit Yourself so now it’s time to learn the rest of it. I hope you’ll connect with its message and achieve your life-long swimming dream.

You have unlimited potential, 
That others may fail to see.
It may be just a few who do, 
But believing in you is key.

You have unlimited potential, 
Don’t sit back and wait.
It may seem like a safer bet,
But you’ll never be as great.


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