A veteran soldier who was injured while serving in Iraq is aiming to complete two long-distance triathlons – thanks to being able to train on an anti-gravity treadmill.
Paul Fee, 28, who finds it harder to run outside after several operations on his knee, has received support for his rehabilitation through the Help for Heroes-run northern Recovery Centre, Phoenix House in Catterick, North Yorkshire.
A former private with the 1st Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, Paul joined the Army in 2006 but, while training the Iraqi Army in 2007, he tore ligaments in his right knee. It was not until he returned from Iraq that the injury was diagnosed properly and he had to have his ACL ligament replaced twice as well as the collateral lateral ligament.As a member of Team True Spirit, which provides the opportunity for injured servicemen to take part in a wide variety of challenges, Paul has signed up to the Cotswold 113 - a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and 13 mile run on June 15; and Ironman Bolton on July 20 - a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon.
Three operations failed to solve the problem so, after carrying out a number of different roles in the Army, he was medically discharged in February, 2011.
Each of the four Help for Heroes run recovery centres across the UK has an AlterG anti-gravity treadmill for veterans and military personal to use and H4H has also purchased six for Defence Rehabilitation.
Paul, began using the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill at Phoenix House Recovery Centre last year.
Paul, who lives in Catterick Garrison, with his wife Gemma and three children Keeghan, eight, Brooke, four and Rhyley, two, said: “The treadmill reduces the pressure put on your joints. If I run outside, it becomes painful quite quickly because of the pressure on my knee but I can run for longer on the treadmill.
“It relieves the pain with immediate effect and you don’t have to work for it. Afterwards, there’s not a recovery period with a sore knee either.
“Getting on the treadmill was really my first step back into training and running. It was a real relief to be able to run normally again,” he said.
Paul, whose main strength in the triathlon is cycling, said if he cannot run the full distance in the two events, he will walk them.
“Whatever happens, I will complete them,” he said.
Paul has become involved in a variety of fitness programmes at Phoenix House. He has also signed up for the Tartan Express Hero Ride in June, which will see him cycle 440 miles from Edinburgh to London.
He said: “A few months ago, with my injury, I would never have been able to do this much training so this is amazing for me. The anti-gravity treadmill has certainly helped with that and just means I can train without the pain.
“When I left the Army, I could not find somewhere to go. I wasn’t exercising or active and was just sat at home. But now I am out and about meeting new people and socialising. I had really missed it as in the Army you are always with friends. Now my life feels normal again.”
Mark Airey, Strength and Conditioning Coordinator at Phoenix House, said that in general, the anti-gravity treadmill helps people with lower limb and back injuries to train when they otherwise would not be able to.
“When they go on it for the first time, they are just overwhelmed and it just boosts their moral immensely.”
Anyone who served in the Army, Navy or Royal Air Force who needs the help of Phoenix House Recovery Centre can self-refer by calling 01748 834148.