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Ron Cleroux Soars on His Bike

“Road cycling helps clear my mind. I get a biker’s high much like a runner’s high. I’m completely happy after every ride,” says Retired Leading Seaman Ron Cleroux, who uses cycling to stay focused, motivated, and healthy.

Cleroux always knew he wanted to serve, and he joined the Canadian Armed Forces straight out of high school. It didn’t take long for him to realize he had found his calling.

“Nothing beats the brotherhood and being part of the military family,” he says.

However, on January 16, 1998 a tragedy occurred that would change Cleroux’s life forever.

Cleroux was aboard the HMCS Montreal patrolling the eastern coast near Halifax when a distress signal came in to one of the rescue centres. A tanker had split in half between Newfoundland and the French island of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. The Montreal set out at full speed, but by the time they arrived there was no one left to rescue, just oil-soaked bodies floating in the water. Cleroux, who was a trained rescue diver, in addition to his normal duties as a marine engineer technician, was tasked with recovering the casualties.

“I didn’t realize what we were in for. It took a few years to recognize how much that experience haunts me still,” he says.

After 16 years of service, Cleroux’s deteriorating PTSD made it impossible for him to go on and he retired from the Canadian Armed Forces in 2004.

Transition to civilian life was tough. “When I retired, I felt I lost my sense of identity. The military was all I knew. I would isolate myself and sleep all day,” Cleroux remembers.

The isolation led to depression which in turn contributed to a large weight gain.

“At one point I reached 300 pounds. I would often use alcohol as a coping mechanism. I felt sorry for myself and couldn’t find a way out of my lifetime low. Not to mention the fact that my family was suffering due to my actions.”

Becoming active again was easier said than done.

“I didn’t have a passion for going to the gym, nagging injuries and excuses made it easy not to go. I had no motivation or dedication because I never held myself accountable for my own health. Physical activity was part of the daily routine in the military, but after the Forces, it was hard to stay motivated.”

That all changed in 2015 when Cleroux came into contact with Soldier On. He applied for a grant to buy a bicycle and soon became an avid road cyclist. He was also selected to participate in the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida in 2016.

“This was the tipping point to my health skyrocketing, and I never looked back. Even with all my ailments, I have never pushed myself as hard as I did for the games. It gave me an objective, a goal to be the best that I can be.”

Cleroux won two medals at Invictus, but the highlight was meeting Prince Harry.

“It left me speechless. I remember to this day what he said to me: ‘You deserve this!’ I’m sure that would mean something different to each person, but to me it was about overcoming all boundaries that my injuries caused to make me the person who I am today.”

Cleroux recently completed a culinary management course and hopes to be able to work as a chef, cooking for the military. Sport and physical activity remain crucial to his mental and physical wellbeing.

This summer Cleroux will take part in the Navy Bike Ride for the first time and he encourages enthusiastic cyclers and beginners alike to give it a go.

“Discovering my passion for cycling has totally transformed my life! Who knows what it can do for you."