We are incredibly blessed over here on 2nd ave to have a crew of instructors that inspire us on the daily, and one of those people is Brad Wagner. If you’ve walked through our doors in the early morning, odds are you’ve heard the Brad buzz! His 6AM classes sell out fast, and are the best way to start your day in the Twin Cities! We are coming up on this 20 year anniversary with us over here at The Firm, and we feel constantly blessed to have him on our team! Read his interview below to see how Brad found his way to The Firm!
1/ Can you tell us a bit about your path and how you landed here at the Firm, in Minneapolis?
-My fitness journey began at birth, my parents are an example of Wellness, from the inside out. My Dad was my Phy Ed teacher and coach, my Mom was my constant reminder that being yourself is the greatest gift to you and others.
I grew up playing basketball, football, baseball, etc. Where I found my groove was when I started swimming and playing tennis, these sports helped me find my own independence and I needed that as a teenager who was going through a lot during the coming out process. Along the way, something was missing for me though, I missed the group interaction and I stumbled upon a group fitness class in Eau Claire, WI, my hometown, I was 17. The class was with Donna Sauter. She quickly became my 2nd Mom, mentor and a friend who accepted me for who I am and taught me how to be an instructor.
Then, one day, I came to the big city, Minneapolis and came to The Firm for the first time and took class with Doug, I was 17. Here was this wonderfully inclusive and caring person who welcomed me into class and showed me what truly being yourself looks like and what it feels like for those around him. I was mesmerized and inspired. I would drive back/forth from Eau Claire to Mpls once a week for my senior year of High School to take classes from Doug and others.
After High School, I went to college in the UW system focused on Corporate Fitness. While in college, I taught classes in Eau Claire, came to The Firm a lot and started to dream about moving to Mpls.
After my college experience, I came out. There’s a whole book about this that my parents wrote, Ready or Not, They’re Gay, a story about our family.
After I came out, I knew where I wanted to live, Mpls. I knew where I wanted to teach, The Firm. But, one issue, oh yeah, you need a lot of experience to teach at The Firm, I learned that quickly. So, I started at Northwest Athletic Club Arena, now Lifetime Fitness. I taught there for a couple of years and met more mentors like Bruce Camp and Rick Wyland. I also met my 3rd Mom, Sue Denuccio.
There was a time when I thought that I might want to leave Mpls and go back to Eau Claire, I told my class that I was going to get more education. Then, Sue, came up to me after class and said, “why are you really leaving.” I said, “I can’t make it here, I am not feeling connected, I am lonely.” Sue said, “you need to come over to Target and meet some people.” I didn’t know that Sue basically lined up a job for me and got me hired into the Fitness and Sporting Goods department at headquarters, I started the next day. I fell in love with Target and the people at Target. Sue’s biggest advice, “just smile your way through good times and also the bull@%^$.” Well, let me tell ya, it has worked, I have been with Target for 20 years this September.
Along the way, Somer Kvale and her brother Jason started to come to my class at Northwest Athletic Club, we became friends. Somer and Jason said, “Brad, you need to meet Kelly from The Firm, it’s time.” They lined up a call with Kelly and she called back. We talked and she asked me to come in for an audition. I was so nervous to meet Kelly, I mean, my dream was to work at The Firm. I remember the audition day so well, we sat in the little Studio back on Aldrich Ave. Kelly was kind and also to the point and said, “Bradley, let’s see what you’ve got.” I remember doing some sort of aerobic combination of moves that were all choreographed. She took notes, smiled and said, “honey, honey, let’s talk.” I was about to crap my pants, seriously. She went on, “you have the job, we just need to take your story and break it into digestible chapters.” We worked for weeks on my first class and she gave me Friday nights at 6:15p.m.
Almost 20 years later, I have so many positive and developmental memories with The Firm that have shaped me as a person. Also, there are so many people to thank. I cannot thank Somer enough for having the confidence in my abilities to introduce me to Kelly but also Kelly for seeing something in me, developing me, guiding me and loving me through the work but also through life. Kelly is my boss, yes, but she is also a part of what I consider family. This extends to Neil and the rest of the staff at The Firm.
As a parent of three now with my loving co-pilot, Jay Miller, we hope we can instill the feelings we know others feel about The Firm to our children, including:
-A place to call home.
-Inspiration on the days when you need a pick me up.
-Love, unconditional love.
We love you Brad! Thank you for bringing love, motivation AND inspiration to us for almost 20 years! Here’s to 20 more!
Brad + Kids