Confidence and Coddiwompling: Eoghan’s Guide to Mind-Fit Cycling
We chatted to the passionate cyclist, sports journalist, and expert Eoghan coddiwompler McHugh
The road so far a.k.a. who is Eoghan McHugh?
Let’s save you a Google search. Eoghan is pronounced as ‘Owen’, not as your favourite LOTR character, even though reading about his adventures might inspire you to go throw a ring into a volcano at your earliest convenience. He cycles, writes about cycling, and spent the cold half of last year cycling to North Africa (which you can find out about on his Instagram or in this article).
A list of his latest adventures includes cycling around Southern Ireland in 2016, touring Kent in 2018, and a trip from John O’Groats to Land’s End in 2018. He’s also done some ultra-cycling races, which include the Trans Alba in 2019 and the Atlas Mountain Race in 2020. Eoghan isn’t a pro cyclist, which makes his adventures even more impressive—they’re made of passion and sweat.
But why would someone with access to a variety of modern comforts want to cycle for hundreds of miles? Is it stubbornness? Competitive spirit? Hopeless masochism?
Minderful caught Eoghan on his return to the UK to find out what drives him to cycling and what wisdom he has to share with us.
On the Gifts of Cycling
Cycling (especially the long-distance kind) isn’t for everyone, but it’s hard to know whether you’ll fall in love with it until you’ve tried it properly. The experience of cycling for days is uniquely exhilarating, but because of its simplicity, it can appeal to a variety of people with a love for active lifestyles. Think nature lovers, adrenaline junkies, globetrotters, and people who like their lives structured around goals.
Eoghan’s love for cycling started long before 2017, but that was the year when he started taking on more serious challenges. We asked him to distill the appeal of cycling into three main points and he summed it up brilliantly:
It’s social—You can easily meet friends all around the world while cycling. Language and cultural barriers disappear and everyone simply rides together. You get to see others’ authentic selves overcoming challenges, and help one another, which is great if you’re cycling with friends or family too.
It allows you to make lots of beautifully accidental discoveries—most of the world’s natural beauty isn’t easily accessible. Being on a bike gives you the power to explore smaller roads, new paths, and hidden natural wonders known only to locals. Not to mention that cycling is much better for the planet too.
It encourages you to keep pushing yourself—cycling is a great metaphor for new challenges. It requires a goal — which is like a final destination, incremental steps (the route), and a regular review of what’s left and what’s been done so far. Physical exercise is a key part of mental fitness, and cycling engages the body while occupying the mind. You can almost forget that you’re on a bicycle when admiring beauty, reflecting on your thoughts, and thinking about life while progressing towards a well-defined goal.
Eoghan believes that challenging yourself is a Catch 22. You have to believe that you can do it, then map out the stages, and achieve it. The confidence of having reached your first goal fuels your next challenge, and then the next, and before you know it, you’re on a roll. This is how cycling has helped him become more confident and resilient in life.
On Taking Control of One’s Mental Fitness
The key part of Eoghan’s latest trip was the concept of coddiwompling, defined as ‘travelling in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination’. This is what he tried to accomplish by gradually migrating south for the winter, eventually reaching Morocco. Travelling in 2020 wasn’t easy, but having planned this trip safely, he decided to take it for the sake of his mental health. The journey itself had plenty of hiccups, from cancelled ferries, flights, and expired visas, but trying to move from A to B allowed him to feel more in control of his mind. People who followed Eoghan’s journey on Instagram were uplifted by his live streams, which also gave him a sense of purpose.
To quote the man himself:
To meet big obstacles inspires confidence and self-belief. To meet these challenges requires setting goals, planning, and focus. All translatable to other aspects of life. And, to meet these challenges, with support and praise from friends — that’s belonging and community.
Cycling is an easy, thrilling, and ecological way to get away for a few days and clear your head. You don’t have to escape to Morocco; a cycling day trip to your nearest national park can be just as uplifting.
On preparing for a tough day
All fitness (physical and mental) is on-going — there’s the fitness required to meet a challenge and there’s the resulting fitness moving through a challenge.
Embarking on a tough day of cycling is a lot like any other tough day in life, but with the added physical stress of arduous pedalling. In situations like these, preparation is key. If you know that you’ve got a rough day ahead, double-check everything you have control over. If the challenge is about physical endurance, also make sure you’re well-nourished—but don’t forget to treat yourself.
Eoghan personally recommends hobnobs for days he’s particularly strained, but has also once treated himself to a bag of Doritos while cycling. You know best what little luxuries fill your heart with joy, so allow yourself a little indulgence when it makes a difference to your mental fitness.
On overcoming challenges
Thinking about his challenges in advance can also be a great way to mentally prepare for them. Saying ‘In a week’s time, I’ll be doing this.’ ‘In three days…’ ‘In two days…’ creates excitement while grounding us in the experience. Of course, when the alarm goes off at 4am and it’s dark and cold out, the thought is still there — it’d be so much easier to turn off the alarm and go back to sleep.
But the important thing is to get up, splash your face with some cold water, and take the first step towards your next big thing.
Eoghan believes that the most important part of every challenge is accepting that this is a challenge. It’s uncomfortable in some way and that is something to be celebrated. This is a thread that connects great minds and a solid piece of advice that we’re happy to echo every time it’s mentioned.
When stuck in Morocco last winter, Eoghan had to go to the police station every day for weeks to ask for a visa renewal, which also taught him how to manage his own expectations. Trouble will inevitably come and rain on your parade (especially when you’re cycling), but persistence, patience, and putting your current challenges in the context of what you’ve already achieved can help push you through tough times.
On Picking up Advice Along the Way
When asked what sort of mental fitness advice he’s picked up from other cyclists, Eoghan mostly thinks about the emanating positivity.
They’ve done the big efforts. They’ve had the shit days. They’ve had the injuries. And they’ve lived through it all and tried again.
There seems to be a resilience, a self-belief, and a positivity that develops with meeting challenges. And I’ve found cyclists to share this quality.
The desire to do better, be better, and challenge yourself shouldn’t be limited to sports, but they do provide the easiest analogy for the internal journey that happens. We hope that you’ve learned something and that you might consider a little step outside of your comfort zone as a result—and that you’ll give cycling a go. Life is for doing, after all, and speeding down an empty road at sunrise certainly counts as that.
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