Coach Nick’s 14-Day Challenge: Volume 8

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MAY 13-26, 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: TOUGHEN UP

When it comes to mental toughness, Olympic swimmers reign supreme. They weren’t born that way; they became that way over time. To add toughness to your mentality, give these winning strategies a try:

  • Swim where you belong in practice and never let a slower swimmer go ahead of you.
  • Don’t baby yourself.
  • Never train on cruise control.
  • Never miss practice unless you’re sick, exhausted, or overwhelmed by school.
  • Work as hard in dry-land as you do in the pool.
  • Don’t blame others for your failures.
  • Never quit in the middle of a challenging set. 


Did you know that there’s a proper way to push off the wall in practice? It’s called the Drop Down Position, and we teach it at PEAK. To begin, place one hand on the wall, using your right hand if you’re right-handed and your left hand if you’re left-handed. Turn your head and body entirely to your side, and place your feet on the wall facing directly out to the side shoulder-width apart. At this point, your top shoulder should be directly above your bottom shoulder, your top knee directly above your bottom knee, and your top foot directly above your bottom foot. Position your other arm straight out in front of your shoulder, with the palm of your hand facing the sky and your elbow slightly bent. On butterfly, breaststroke, and freestyle, drop down below the surface and push off on your side in a 100% streamline position. After that, turn onto your stomach. On backstroke, do the same thing off the wall, only turn onto your back. You’ll feel like a pro coming off the wall, because that’s the way they do it. 


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.


Some swimmers snack while others graze, but there’s a big difference. Snacking is like having a mini-meal at certain times throughout the day, and it can be a wise choice for calorie-starved swimmers. Grazing, on the other hand, is the continuous act of eating which can quickly pack on the pounds. Today’s challenge is to have a healthy, all-natural snack between breakfast and lunch, and lunch and dinner. That way your body will feel energized and ready to go come practice time.


No two swimmers have the same amount of flexibility, which impacts the quality of their streamline off the walls. With practice, super-flexible swimmers can perform the same level of streamline as an Olympic champion. Stiff swimmers, on the other hand, won’t even come close. Regardless of your degree of flexibility, you must strive to maintain your best streamline off every wall in practice today. It may not be up to Olympic standards, but at least it’s the best you can do.


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.


Confidence is knowing that you can achieve a specific goal. To add more of it to your mindset, give these winning strategies a try:

  • Take risks in practice to accelerate your progress.
  • Dismiss negative thoughts that undermine your belief in you.
  • Treat your swimming like gold.
  • Believe that you can, even when others doubt you.
  • Forget your past if it doesn’t support your future.
  • Seize any opportunity that will advance you.
  • Demand more of yourself, because the more you do, the better you’ll get.


At PEAK, we believe that every length of practice must have meaning or it’s not worth doing. No matter the total distance swum, you get out of it what you put into it, so you must maximize the potential of every 25. Rather than rush from one end of the pool to the other, focus on the way you push off each wall, then your underwater travel sequence, then your stroke technique combined with the physical effort required to make the interval with room to spare. By breaking each practice into bite-size pieces (25s), you’ll maximize your training experience. So that’s your challenge today. Give it a try and see what happens. At first, it will probably challenge your mental side more than your physical.


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.


When it comes to strength training, the back is often the most neglected area of the body, because many people mistakenly believe that challenging the back muscles can lead to injury. The truth is that you need to strengthen those muscles to improve your posture, prevent lower back pain, and develop a strong, balanced core to swim faster. Back Extensions can do all that and more!


Step 1: Lie face down on the ground, with your head turned to the right, your arms at your sides with your palms up, your legs together, and the tops of your feet on the ground.

Step 2: Pull your abs into your spine, press the front of your hips into the floor, and raise your chest 4-8 inches off the ground while keeping your neck straight. As you lift your chest, pull your hands several inches away from your torso and rotate your arms so that your palms face down. This movement helps to flatten the shoulder blades in your upper back.

Step 3: Pause in this raised position and take 2-4 breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly and deliberately while holding this position.

Step 4: Slowly lower your chest to the floor, rotating your arms back to their original position, and resting the left side of your face on the floor.

Step 5: Perform four sets, each until failure. With each repetition, alternate resting the right and left sides of your face on the ground.