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Off the Clock with Ron Pattyn

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Assistant Chief Engineer, Toronto/Montréal, Ron Pattyn is old school.

Talk to him for five minutes and you might find yourself nostalgic for gym classes where push-ups were the norm and calisthenics were part of your everyday routine. This traditional thinking meets modern sports in Pattyn’s world of mixed martial arts, where students half his age vie for the opportunity to step into the ring with him to practise karate, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and kick-boxing. Pattyn opened West-Island Jiu-Jitsu and Kickboxing Academy in Montréal’s Monster Gym in 2003, along with a couple of partners. Although he calls it a hobby, anyone who listens to him will quickly discover that it is so much more. It’s his passion, his love and his way of life outside of the railroad.

Growing up in a small farming town in Alexandria, Ontario, Pattyn learned discipline at an early age. His parents instilled in him and his younger brother, Rick, a strong work ethic, which they eventually used to drive optimum fitness and recreational sports performance. While describing his younger self as physically small, Pattyn recalls that he still loved hockey and knew the only way to gain respect on the ice was to train and become bigger. He challenged himself with weights and the transformation began. Weights became more than just a means to an end and Pattyn took to the competitive world of bodybuilding with gusto.

Ron Pattyn teaching martial arts to two young boys.

By the age of 22, he had achieved his goal of being one of the best in the sport, ranking ninth in Canada.

While Pattyn would have loved to have claimed a championship, performance-enhancing drugs were becoming more popular and he wanted no part. He dropped the sport and studied karate in his spare time to stay fit. After receiving his black belt, Pattyn looked to the next challenge, which led him to Muay Thai-style kick-boxing and another black belt. Brazilian jiu-jitsu (grappling martial arts) rounded out his training.

Pattyn started his career with CP in 1980 and worked his way up the ladder to his current position. His black belts were earned during evenings and weekends because he wanted to stay in shape, keep flexible, learn a new skill and take his mind off work in his spare time. Opening the school was a natural fit. It allowed him to teach and stay active outside of CP.

Teaching has taken a back seat to his full-time job these days, but he can often be found on a Saturday morning sparring with members of his school. Pattyn is a true motivator for a healthy lifestyle that includes a sound, nutritious diet.

“You set the bar at a good height and you can achieve amazing things.”

As Assistant Chief Engineer, Toronto/Montréal, Pattyn travels between Sundays and Thursdays. Despite a busy schedule, he does not cut himself any slack where heart-healthy activities are concerned. Free time in hotels provides ample opportunities to work out. His regime hasn’t changed much over the years; it’s comprised of simple, tried-and-true exercises that anybody can do. For Pattyn, a perfect workout is, “Fifteen to twenty minutes of skipping rope, chin-ups, push-ups and some form of leg training, such as step-ups or squats.” He rests for 30 seconds to one minute between sets and completes three to five sets, three times a week, minimum.

With retirement on the horizon, Pattyn will continue to teach long after CP. This 58-year-old is a proponent of keeping active no matter your age. His school certainly reflects this, offering classes for all ages. He encourages his students to set goals and not give up, something he too lives by. In fact, he likens his fitness regime to his day job: “At CP, you set the bar at a good height and you can achieve amazing things.”

Adult students watching as Ron Pattyn teaches martial arts.

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