Working Out: A Different Stroke

Forget golf. Investment adviser Michael Stolper finds the perfect sport.

Michael Stolper is an ivy League grad (Penn) and founder of a consulting firm that advises the superrich on their investments. With that kind of pedigree, you'd think that Stolper would be a golfer, so he could cut deals on the course. Actually, he has only played golf once. Stolper's passion is rowing, and the 51-year-old is a top finisher for his age group in the U.S.

Rowing, Stolper says, "has all the ingredients to be a perfect sport." To him, the main attraction is the focus it takes to train: "I'm very

methodical and disciplined." The sport is holistic, too, because it offers aerobic intensity as well as a grueling total body workout.

The results are hard to miss as Stolper stands on the dock of the Undine Barge Club on the Schuylkill River near downtown Philadelphia. Clad in a rower's form-fitting spandex, his lanky 6-foot, 5-inch frame reveals a man that fat forgot. (He weighs 205 pounds.) Dripping in sweat and panting hard after a rigorous afternoon row, Stolper points to Undine, the Frank Furness-designed building on famed Boathouse Row. "This is my temple," he says. It is early in the season, so his hands are still forming calluses, and he is just getting his stroke into a good groove.

Despite his success in competitions, Stolper is a relative newcomer to the sport. He rowed as a lightweight during his freshman year in college, but lost interest and didn't try out again for the team, which he now regrets. Stolper got passionate about the sport 14 years ago after purchasing a Concept2 rowing machine on a whim.

Stolper halfheartedly expected the $750 piece of equipment to collect dust in his living room, but he couldn't stop using it. Then Stolper mentioned his obsession with the Concept2 to Frank Rowe, a former U.S. national rowing champion, who persuaded him to try rowing on the water. Stolper also trained with Jim Barker, one of the world's most renowned rowing coaches.

Instead of shorter 1,000- and 1,500-meter sprint races, Stolper prefers "head races," which are closer to 5,000 meters. (The name comes from the fact that they once started at the headwaters of rivers.) "It turns out I'm pretty good," Stolper says. He rows in a one-man "singles" scull and has placed in the top five at local races including the Head of the Schuylkill Regatta. Stolper competes in the Masters category, also known as the "old guys group," where rowers are broken down into age groups. (He races in the 50-59 age group.)

Stolper, of course, has a day job. As a founding partner at Veritable LP in Newtown Square, Pa., he oversees 80 employees and $9 billion in assets. (He should not be confused with the other Michael Stolper, who runs Stolper & Co., an investment advisory firm in San Diego.)

To train for the 5,000-meter race, which takes about 20 minutes to complete, Stolper's rower's workout builds endurance and, as an added bonus, burns fat. During the April-to-October rowing season, Stolper tries to get out on the water four times a week. He doesn't have a set workout time. Some days he arrives at the boathouse as early as 6:30 a.m.; on others he will schedule a lunch meeting in downtown Philadelphia so he can swing by in the afternoon.


Stolper owns two 28-foot Empacher boats, each of which "cost the price of a small Korean car," according to one of the high school crew coaches who hangs around the boathouse. Stolper keeps one boat at Undine, which costs $450 in annual membership and $200 a year for boat storage. He keeps the second boat at his summer home on New Hampshire's Squam Lake, where the movie On Golden Pond was filmed.

If you live in the Northeast, you can't get on the water all year long. During the off months--November to March--Stolper trains on one of the seven Concept2 machines in Veritable's gym. (He calls the machines "instruments of terror" and logs about 1,500 miles annually.)

While Veritable's staff includes several other rowers, boating is not a passion shared by Stolper's wife, Jane, who was attacked by a swarm of black flies the last time he took her out on the water. All four of his daughters, ages 9 to 20, however, are interested in the sport.

On the water or on a machine, rowing takes so much time that Stolper doesn't have much room in his schedule to lift weights or crunch abs. But he makes stretching a priority, spending 15 minutes before and after each workout loosening up. Stolper pays attention to his quadriceps, since they do 75% of the work when he rows, along with his "aching back."

Another sign of aging is that he is slowing down. Still, Stolper says his technique improves year after year. In a couple of decades, his race times will not be as good as they are now, but his form should be perfect.

By Lauren Young

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