Doug Helland talks about how mountain biking has altered his life beginning in his mid 40s - from feeling exhausted after a one mile lap to getting multiple awards and sponsorship.  

Doug Helland was born and raised in Idaho and now resides in Ann Arbor, MI.  He is currently Director of Facilities Management for CBRE, Inc.  His mountain bike sponsor is Wheels in Motion in Ann Arbor, MI, and was also selected by Trek Bikes as a member of the Great Athletes Ride Trek (GART) promotional program.  He has finished in the top 5 in Michigan’s Championship Point Series in the +50 age category for 3 consecutive years.

- Enjoy our chat with Doug -


Tell us about your background

I played football in college and was very active.  Once I graduated, training came to an abrupt halt - I thought that there was no reason to continue training and working out.  I started golfing in my 30s and considered this to be an active lifestyle.  I played about 40 rounds of golf each year and walked the course carrying my clubs.


When did mountain biking come into your life?

My daughter was nearing the age of 4 and we thought that it would be fun to ride bikes together as a family.  My wife and I picked out our own bike styles.  She selected a grocery getter and I selected a mountain bike.  I was now in my 40s and had 10 years of very little physical activity and received blood test results that confirmed that I had elevated cholesterol levels.  Since I owned a bike, I started riding.  Slowly at first.  I started riding a one mile mulched path near my house.  I would rest after each lap.  I worked my way up to 10 laps without stopping and then started focusing on getting faster and reducing my time.

What was it like to experience a race for the first time?

My first race was a 9 mile mountain bike time trial.  As a beginner, a time trial was a great way to start racing since it was not a mass start.  A mass start race turns out to be a race to the trailhead.  It is easy to get caught up in this mad rush at the beginning of the race.  Time trials have a 30 second interval between riders and you don’t feel like you are holding people back.  I had great expectations and finished 9th out of 17.  That inspired me to train harder and keep pushing.

What advice would you tell someone who wants to start mountain biking?

I would advise people that it is never to late to start mountain biking.  There are plenty of excellent racers that are in their 70s.  Start on beginner trails that match your ability with a capable bike.  Make sure that you invest time at your local bike shop prior to purchasing a bike.  The shop will also insure that the bike fits you properly.  They can also provide you with group ride information and technical clinics to help you enjoy mountain biking.

What else do you do for training?

I use cross training to help my cardio especially on days when I don’t have time to travel or gear-up to ride a bike.  I like to run for 30 minutes as many days as I can in a year (+300).  I weight train to build my core strength. 

How does your diet affect your biking goals?

My diet is very important.  My carbohydrate level is 300 grams/day.  Protein is +100/day.  Fat is less than 50 grams per day.  Once I started focusing on this formula, I easily lost 20 pounds while building muscle.  Also, I now have a normal cholesterol level!

What's your favorite go-to snack?

Before races, I snack on Cheerios.  I like eating Cheerios before each race because they are a great source of carbohydrates, are portable, and take no time to prepare.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Doug.  In yogic philosophy, we have an observation called Svadhyaya and it means self-study.  It's about going inward and shedding the layers to find the goodness inside.  It seems you have done that with finding your passion for mountain biking.  We enjoy following your very inspirational path and wish you many, many more incredible rides on your journey.