Bouncing back, Sreckovic finds calling as personal trainer

Numbers and statistics — the sheer magnitude of the former, the eye-opening pop of the latter — have offered only a hint of the wallop with which the Great Recession floored previously upright lives.

But numbers and statistics are often tinged with coldness, distance. To get a closer view, you need to listen to individuals and hear their stories. People like Barbara Sreckovic and her tale.

Pre-recession, she was married with three children and living in a spacious house in Wilton. Her husband worked as a trader with a major Wall Street bank; she worked locally as a corporate trainer with a research firm. Viewed from the outside, as most lives are, the Sreckovics were living somewhere between Rockwellian and large.

In a span of less than two years, that canvas was altered irreparably with brash dystopian brushstrokes.

The initial change, which came in June 2010, was more about self-renewal and self-determination. After 13 years at her job, Barbara Sreckovic felt she had outgrown it.

“I would be sitting in meetings and daydreaming,” she said. “I felt like a dead soul. I stayed because I had three kids and the job was close by, but it was definitely not something I was passionate about.”

Never much of an athlete while growing up in Chicago — she attended an all-girls high school and was on the track team for one year — Sreckovic initially focused on spending more time with her children and getting in better physical shape while thinking about her next career move. “My goal was to run a triathlete,” she said. “I was going to run every day to train.”

The next transformations, however, weren’t as planned or as psychically beneficial. Sreckovic’s husband became another of the recession’s casualties when he was among mass Wall Street layoffs. The jolt and the stress widened some preexisting cracks in the couple’s relationship, leading to a separation and divorce proceedings.

“I found myself alone with three kids and no job,” said the 43-year-old Sreckovic. “It wasn’t a position I ever imagined being in.”

At the time, Sreckovic was working with a personal trainer at LA Fitness in Norwalk, mostly as a way to reduce the tension and uncertainty hovering over her like stalking clouds. But when an employee at the gym noticed her dedication and mentioned the idea of Sreckovic becoming a trainer herself, an epiphany bloomed.

“I hadn’t thought about ever becoming a trainer, but when he said that it resonated with me,” said Sreckovic. “I loved working out, and the opportunity to pass that on and help other people become physically fit was appealing. It struck a chord.”

Sreckovic pressed onward. She earned an IMSA (International Sports Medicine Association) certificate and now works as a personal trainer at Wilton Sports & Fitness and LA Fitness. She is also running a corporate boot camp for the Aquarion Water Company, as well as training personal clients at her house.

“There is always more to learn, more to read,” said Sreckovic, pointing to a table top bustling with fitness magazines in her family room. “I absolutely love it. I lose track of time, which is something that never happened while I was at my previous job.”

Sreckovic wants her clients to understand that fitness training has to be a lifestyle, but she also doesn’t want them to be training with her for a lifetime.

“I want to give them the knowledge and the inspiration so they can move on and do this stuff on their own,” she said. “I want them to not need me anymore. To me, that is the sign of a successful trainer.”

Sreckovic, who lives in Wilton with her three daughters, has found another outlet for her own training: Figure competitions.

“I have done three so far,” said Sreckovic, who finished third (and earned her first trophy) in the Novice Figure Tall division at the INBF Monster Mash last November in Marlborough, Mass. “It’s a way to reaffirm all the hard work you put in to get in shape.”

Although personal training consumes much of her time — she works 30 hours a week with clients and is studying for her ACE (American Council on Exercise) certification — Sreckovic isn’t complaining.

“I’m in a good place right now,” she said. “A much better place than I was in.”

Sreckovic’s exuberance is out-sized to the point of being tangible. Spend an hour talking with her and even the most sedentary soul would likely leave feeling a call to lift weights, circuit train, go jogging and eat healthier. It’s that enthusiasm and direction she wants her clients to have.

“I want to teach people how to take better care of themselves and inspire them to stick with it,” she said. “A personal trainer has to be an instructor but also a motivator. Without the motivation, there isn’t the commitment. And the commitment is what you need in order to see changes.”