Coaching Clients Across the Finish Line

That number can’t be right, I thought. My heart rate was higher than ever before. And even though I was cycling at 12,500 feet above sea level under extreme conditions, the stratospheric number had me worried: Would I finish the race?

But even with 50 miles to go, over roads strewn with rocks infamous for slicing and dicing tires, in a competition notorious for making athletes break down and blubber like babies, I felt a surge of confidence about crossing the finish line at the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike (MTB) race.

I owe that confidence and my race finish to my trainer, Brian Walton, who created a plan that propelled me 100 miles over the challenging terrain and altitude of the Colorado Rockies.

In theory, I didn’t need Brian. When we began working together eight years ago, I was already an experienced cyclist, with multiple races and thousands of training miles under my performance tires.

But as Yogi Berra once said, “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.” In practice, Brian dramatically improved my fitness, technique, strategy, and results.

Maybe it was the adrenaline or the lack of oxygen at an elevation best suited to marmots and mountain goats, but I couldn’t help but think how a good trainer is a lot like a good financial advisor.

Helping clients back away from the french fries

As a cyclist, I was a lot like many investors: Knowledgeable. Motivated. Well-intentioned.

I was also a busy executive with four young children and a heavy international travel schedule. Even though I spent most of my free time reading up on the latest on exercise and sports nutrition, deciding how and when to train still eluded me.

Just as many investors need an advisor, I needed a coach, and it had to be a real person. My bike computer was great at measuring my speed, distance, heart rate, and power output, but it was up to me to set the objectives, pedal the miles, and lay off the french fries. The computer wasn’t enough. I needed a real person with credentials and demonstrated experience to help me identify goals, develop a customized training regimen, and provide support and motivation to reach those goals.

Similarly, an investor can use a computer to implement Vanguard’s Principles for Investing Success, but only advisors like you can listen to clients’ hopes and dreams for their lives and their finances; implement a plan to track progress toward goals; and create low-cost, diversified portfolios for clients to help achieve them.