Cultivating Badassery: A Guest Blog Post by Michelle C. 420

Today’s post is my 7th installment of a featured instructor Guest Blog Post…now, my FAVORITE part of this cycling blog addiction! Michelle and I have only connected via this blog and social media, and I had a feeling that another awesome guest post was in the works!

This month’s post came down to the wire due to the passing of Michelle’s beloved “pupper”…if you’re a dog/pet owner, you know how devastating that can be, so special THANKS to Michelle for contributing some bad ass wisdom at such a tough time.

Let’s meet Michelle Copolo-Ziemer…

Staff headshot Queen City Cycling

When Steve asked me if I would be willing to write a guest post, I had a major fan girl moment and freaked out, because our initial online conversation was me gushing over how much I deeply appreciate the amazing resource that For the Ride Inside presents to cycling instructors. The exposure to new music, shared ideas and a sense of community is what keeps me coming back week after week to be inspired, and keep exploring new ways to create an amazing experience for my Queen City riders. If you’re reading this post, you definitely know what I mean! So first and foremost, THANK YOU STEVE for your prolific work in sharing indoor cycling inspiration and vibes with us all!

As for my own journey in the saddle, I started teaching indoor cycling almost on a whim. I had a friend in graduate school who worked at the local YMCA, and they had an opening for a spinning instructor. I decided that I wanted to try my hand at teaching spin as a way to make some extra cash and stay within the exercise and physiology realm, so that my “fun” job was feeding the fire of my graduate studies. I got certified by Schwinn Fitness, under the tutelage of Master Trainer Keli Roberts and started teaching at the Huntington, West Virginia YMCA. Amazingly, 10 years later, here I am… working in sports medicine, and still teaching indoor cycling as my “fun” job. Only now, the fire that indoor spinning fuels is the passion fire of not only feeling self-empowerment and self-care but also enables me to share that ability of finding your green light for unapologetic badassery, not just in the cycling studio but in day to day life. Every time a rider leaves my class, I hope they have lost themselves in the music, found their inner power and walk out the door vibrating at a higher level than the world around them. Badassery is defined as behavior, characteristics, or actions regarded as formidably impressive. If I’ve done my job right, I always want people to feel formidably impressive , and have a little more swag in their step after a class with me (and not just cause the saddle hurt their butt on one of my epic climbs, which… sorry NY, but your teacher grew up in WV where we LOVE our hills haha!) That is why we cultivate badassery.

Spin & Zen yoga and bike shot

I am a long way away from my first YMCA classes in West Virginia. Since then, I have taught classes at two colleges in upstate New York, opened and closed my own sweet little spinning business, North Country Spin and Zen, and moved to Buffalo, NY. Now, you can find me at Queen City Cycling, where I teach the early birds at 5:45 am, and the post work happy hour crew at 6:30 pm, and any number of random classes I pick up any chance I can get. I signed up for ONE class with a friend at QCC after a few beers on a Friday night. That Saturday morning, I took class, knew I had found my spin home in Western NY and never looked back. As soon as an instructor posting became available, I jumped on it (Shout out! Thanks Catherine!) and I have been teaching at QCC ever since. It’s cool, because before I started teaching at QCC, I bounced around a lot, so feeling like I can put down roots has enabled me to invest in my cycle tribe, and really start to pull things out of them athletically and develop classes that feed not only their bodies, but their minds and hearts.

I think one of the toughest things for us to do as humans, right now, is tune out the noise of the external world and tap into that internal sense of strength and fortitude. We get pulled in a lot of directions, and what I have found is that people are just looking for ways to move and breathe that fill their cup back up. That’s the beautiful thing about indoor cycling… it is a lifelong pursuit. You can cycle whether you are young, old, recovering from an injury, cross training for a marathon, and every circumstance in between. You can cycle in the winter, in Buffalo New York, at 5:45 in the morning. There is a sense of community in group cycling, for sure, but also, it’s a deeply individual effort. The best part (for me at least, and I’m sure some of you would agree) about being an indoor cycling teacher is the opportunity to simply hold space for others to experience their own version of strength seeking, time taking, and healing, sweaty redemption. I feel those things each time I hop on the bike…lost in the music, and reconnected to the purest sense of self, cultivating badassery on every hill you chew up, every sprint that you crush, and every flat that you attack. To me, indoor cycling is a metaphor for life… times get tough, the road gets heavy, but there’s ALWAYS a little more that you can give, and you always wind up feeling amazingly powerful when you’ve accomplished something you didn’t think that you could. Fortitude is earned, on the bike as it is in life.

There’s a quote from a Navy SEAL, David Goggins, who says “When your mind is telling you you’re done, you’re really only 40% done.” Your badassery is the other 60%, and it doesn’t appear magically. You work for it, grind for it, and cultivate it. You water it with sweat, in the saddle and you walk away KNOWING that you are tough.

“Bride Ride” class the day before my wedding with my sister in law, mom and best friend

I am proud to share the gift of discovery of your own personal iron will with my classes, with the Queen City, and with all of you! If you’ve never been to Buffalo, you probably think we’re all about wings, throwing ourselves into flaming tables at tailgates (if you haven’t seen this, google Bills Mafia… probably NSFW but hilarious), braving crazy snowstorms to root for our home teams, and did I mention the wings??!! You’d definitely be right about all of the above, BUT Buffalo is also known as the City of Good Neighbors and the Queen City. I can personally attest that the good neighbors part of that moniker is the most true statement ever… there’s not one person here who wouldn’t give you the shirt off their back, smack dab in the middle of one of those famous snowstorms. I think that’s why Buffalo and cycling are so synonymous. The characteristics of Buffalonians are the same characteristics of all of us cyclists; self-less, hard-working, willing to grind, friendly, and giving. From charity classes for worthy causes, to studio Christmas tree gifts for families in need, to Ride for Roswell, a local cancer hospital fundraiser, cyclists give back the gifts that cycling brings us tenfold. I don’t know that I meant this post to turn into a love letter to the City of Buffalo, initially, but the reality is, it started out as a love letter to indoor cycling. Since the saddle is where I feel most at home, and Buffalo is home, I guess it’s inevitable that the two are intertwined. Especially since, in both cycling and life, I have found my own sense of badassery here in Western New York.

Should you find yourself in Buffalo, I hope you come by and see me, and I hope you walk away empowered with the kind of deep peace that comes from doing hard things with a big, goofy grin on your face, surrounded by neighbors who embrace that hustle right beside you. ‘Cause that’s how we roll in the 716. And THAT is badass. Woo! (I should probably also mention that I’m a huge Ric Flair fan, and I definitely channel the WOO in class… some would say way too much!! Sorry, not sorry!)

May the wind be always at your back.

Thanks Michelle for this awesome post…and the generous remarks at the start! No doubt, I am looking forward to a Studio visit in Buffalo, NY…for a in-person dose of BAD ASS!

Check out Michelle’s Bad ass Ride Profile / Playlist:
1. Warm Up-Belong-BEAUZ Remix (CashCash, Dashboard Confessional)
2. Stand climb in 2/ run hill 3-Roll with It (Ethan Payton)
3. Seat climb +10/15 rpm surge on chorus-Came Here for Love (Sigala, Ella Eyre)
4. Sprints (hover over seat for extra challenge ~20 sec/chorus)-Love and War (Feat. Yade Lauren, Yellow Claw)
5. Seat to stand climb (Cue to dig deep! Think of something to let go of!)-Learn to Let Go Michael Brun Remix (Kesha, Michael Brun)
6. :15/:15, 30:/:30 Flat surge/recover-Poison, Phil N Good Remix (Bell Biv DeVoe, Phil N Good)
7. Seat climb/Stand run gear on hill-Invincible (Borgeous)
8. Stand climb (Lets go be a bad ass! Finish the climb, fight for the right to go downhill fast! Start losing gear at 1:45)-Lighters Up (Flosstradamus, NGHTMRE)
9. Flat with optional FUN! (Single leg drills, figure 8’s, Push ups with control etc)-Shape of You Major Lazer Remix (Ed Sheeran, Kranium, Nyla, Major Lazer)
10. Stand climb +10 rpm surge every gear add (Xtra bad ass option: Keep gear for jumps next song!)-IBETCHU (Yellow Claw)
11. Jumps x8 count-Mad Love (Sean Paul, David Guetta, Becky G)
12. Seat climb with sprint (split up room if enough bodies on bikes)-Stand Up Radio Edit (Ludacris, Shawnna)
13. Flat recovery-Old 45’s (Chromeo)
14. Stretch and peace out-COPYCAT Sofi Tukker Remix (Billie Eilish, Sofi Tukker)

Here’s my copy of this great playlist on Spotify:

Get connected with Michelle on SPOTIFY- copolo11, TWITTER- @ChelleBelleATC, Insta- chellebellez, and FB- Michelle Copolo-Ziemer
…or better yet, go for a ride with her at Queen City Cycling in Buffalo, NY (

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