Polly Burns - Athlete Ambassador
Have you always been into sport?
Yes - though it's not been consistently one thing! I did gymnastics as a child, and combined this with swimming to become an artistic swimmer. As I got older and went to university, 'normal' swimming was more accessible so I really got into that though never with a club. The turning point was doing my masters at the University of York, where the club really pushed me into club standard training and I started getting more involved with long distance swimming, resulting in a pool 28.5km, open water 10kms and a relay crossing of the channel last year. I'm now a year round open water skins (no wetsuit) swimmer, which used to be incomprehensible to me! Similarly, running was never 'my thing' but I joined a running club in York to meet new people, and somehow doing a chatty 5km every Monday turned into me doing my first marathon in 2019! Cycling is the odd one out - we've not always been friends but I am gradually getting more confident!
How did you first get into triathlon?
I joined a friendly triathlon club in Edinburgh in 2018, who gave me a lot of confidence and made me realise it wasn't as inaccessible a sport as I thought. They introduced me to the friendly events that I could do to get started and I signed up to the Peebles Sprint Triathlon in late 2019. My running and swimming I felt OK about - the cycling was a different story! I didn't even own a bike for my first triathlon, but I rented one on the day and after loving it committed to doing more (and buying a bike!). Unfortunately the pandemic put a pause on entering more races but that will hopefully begin to change again!
What has been your favourite race to date and why?
Well given I have only actually done one triathlon then it would have to be that one! I just felt such a sense of achievement, and at no point did anyone make me feel like I wasn't professional enough. The Edinburgh marathon was great when I finished...
What is your proudest achievement?
Probably swimming the channel in a relay in 2020. It was such a tough year of not being able to swim and train properly for such a massive undertaking. We didn't even expect to make it to the start line in 2020. However we all worked really hard to do what we could, and when we got the chance to go in September we were all raring to go. I'd never been to Dover before arriving there for the big day; all of the training weekends and boat practice was cancelled. I'd never even swam next to a boat before, so setting off from that beach in the middle of the night and swimming alongside it took some getting used to! We hit a terrible patch of weather about 1.5 miles from French shore, and swimming through that was the hardest swim I have ever done. I motivated myself with what I was going to eat when I got out! When that final swimmer hit land it was an incredible feeling. I'd also raised a huge amount of money for the charity Aspire who support those who have had spinal cord injuries which meant a huge amount.
Have you ever had any racing disasters?
I don't think I have done enough to have had one! The closest disaster was breaking my leg about 6 months before the marathon - big shout out to the physio who managed to get me rehabbed and marathon ready in that time!!
How do you overcome setbacks?
I think I have learnt to focus on what I can control. With the channel last year, I had no control over the pandemic, or breaks in the weather. But I could focus on making sure I was putting in the work so I was ready to go whenever we got that call. Similarly with the broken leg, I couldn't un-break it, but I could focus on how hard I worked at physio and ensuring I was doing everything possible to be fit again. I still get frustrated with setbacks, don't get me wrong, but I try to channel that into positive progress now.
What advice do you wish you'd been given when you first started out?
I think I was very lucky to have had excellent advice when I started from the tri club I joined, who were all incredibly experienced and encouraging. Things like 'just try it' and 'you don't need to be the best to take part' really helped me to just go for it. You don't need the best bike, or the best trisuit - just turn up with what you can within the budget you have and go from there! Practically, being told to leave everything ready to go next to your bike in that first transition was key.
What are your goals?
I think ultimately a solo of the English Channel is my goal. I'd like to get up to Olympic Sprint distance for triathlons, and get my bike confidence and skills up. Staying fit and healthy is an ongoing goal, as is enjoying what I do! At the end of the day none of this is going to happen if I am not having fun.
Who inspires you?
Lewis Pugh is a massive inspiration - I am a marine scientist so the idea of combining endurance swimming and raising awareness for our oceans is very appealing. And every time he sets out to do something it is always one step harder than before. Claire Danson is also a massive inspiration; she is a world-class triathlete who was in a bike accident around 18 months ago, which resulted in her being paralysed after a spinal cord injury. Her Instagram is so full of honesty but also utter determination to make the most of the circumstance she has found herself in. She's already returned to racing! My Dad was my inspiration for doing the marathon - he always wanted to do one, but kept getting injured or ill just before. The 2019 one was his last chance to achieve his goal before he turned 60 and he smashed it. I signed up because I thought it would be good to motivate each other! He beat my time by about half an hour - what an incredible achievement.
Why work with Sundried?
I'm constantly on the lookout for brands which are putting thought into what they're doing. As consumers, we hold a lot of the power to make changes in the world. If we ask for a better way of doing things, supply chains have to react. As a marine scientist, I am well aware of the threat that is facing our planet at the moment. Sundried's policies around producing environmentally friendly collections, as well as the ethics around staff working are both great initiatives which I want to support whilst offering friends and family the chance to purchase good quality sportswear for whatever they're doing.
To hear more from our ambassadors and get free tips on workout plans and more, connect with the Sundried Personal Trainers on our app.