In 2016 I broke my collarbone 60 days before the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. One week later I got it surgically plated and just over 7 weeks later went on to finish ninth in the race. That was my last world championships; three weeks after the race I returned to work as an oncologist.
Let me be clear: my experience of recovery from a broken collarbone doesn’t make me an expert, and if you’re experiencing the same injury, you should definitely consult a follow the guidance from a doctor! But, because people know this story, at least once or twice a month someone who has broken their collarbone contacts me and asks what I did to recover. Each time I reply, I vow to put it all into a blog. So here I am. Three years later and I’ve finally got round to it.
It goes without saying that the Wattbike smart bike formed the mainstay of my training for the first few weeks, so what better place to publish it than through the Wattbike blog? What I’m writing here does not in any way constitute medical advice. However, I hope that if you’re reading it after breaking a bone, it will provide you with at least some hope that your season is not over.
A few things to bear in mind though. Firstly, I got mine surgically repaired. Recovery from a collarbone that is left to heal without surgery will be very different. Furthermore, I was coming at this as a full-time professional athlete, with lots of time to train and a very tight turnaround before the last world championships of my career. There is absolutely no need for most people to do anywhere near this volume of training or to put them under the pressure I did to stay fit.
For most people, and in complete contrast to what I did, my first bit of advice would be to not stress and forget about training. Use the enforced break as an excuse to see friends and do all the things triathlon normally stops you doing. You’ll lose a bit of fitness but it will come back quickly, and the break (ignore the pun!) will probably do you the world of good mentally.
However, for those who want to continue training, here are my tips.
If you’re interested, here is my training log from the first five weeks post-crash. Three years down the line I can’t believe I put myself through that. I had no structure or plan and ended up doing more hours than I would normally do. My run mileage was ridiculous – it was all super slow but I would jog with anyone and everyone, as much as anything because it was the only social bit of training I could do. Bonkers!
My take-home message is simple. A broken bone is uncomfortable and inconvenient but it doesn’t need to end your season if you’re determined it won’t. This little video sums up my experience.