Krystyna, Centre Assistant, Plas y Brenin talks about her love of climbing, fear of failure and her 5 second rule for a positive mindset

By Jodi Hamilton - February 02, 2021

Krystyna joined the team at Plas y Brenin as a Centre Assistant in the Summer of 2020. She’s already a qualified Mountain Leader and has been training to lead the epic adventure activity days in readiness for the welcome return of customers to the centre.

Despite not learning to swim until she was aged 11, Krystyna is now a confident water babe, avid climber and lover of all things outdoors and adventure.

In this informal chat, Krystyna talks about how she came to be at Plas y Brenin, her study route, experience and those that inspire her, how she manages her fear of failure, and why she thinks it’s important to have more female role models in the sector.

Thanks Krystyna.

Are you local to Plas y Brenin?

Well, I’m Northern, I come from Preston. It’s a brilliant place with easy access to so many amazing outdoor adventure destinations like The Lakes, North Wales, North and West Yorkshire and the Peak District. I used to do a day at work and then afterwards drive to various climbs to finish my day – doing something I love.

What are your career aspirations?

When I was younger, I wanted to be a biologist. My logic was that I wanted to earn money so I could afford to do things I love every day. I wanted to fast track into medicine, and then thought I’d specialise to follow where the money is at.

But actually what I want, is to be able to go to work every day, enjoy it and love it. So, instead I decided to pursue a career doing what I love, and not be so focused on the money. I decided to focus on achieving happiness and fulfilment instead.

I’m not focused on biggest, highest, best, or being competitive with other people. I love sharing my experiences, helping people grow and learn, and developing myself.

What made you apply for the role at Plas y Brenin?

I see the role as Centre Assistant providing the perfect opportunity to expand my current skill set under the guidance of more skilled and experienced instructors in one of the country’s most inspirational settings.

At Plas y Brenin I knew I’d get to meet and get to know, knowledgeable and like-minded individuals, and be inspired by those around me.

I'm always looking for opportunities to develop and progress my knowledge of the outdoors. Gaining as much knowledge as possible through mentoring is something I value highly, as a predominantly practical learner.

Finding new techniques, methodologies, and developing skills to become a positive role model is important to me. I am aware that continued professional development is essential in such a dynamic and fast paced industry as this. It's fundamental, so I intend to do it throughout my career.

What's your favourite sport?

"I find it hard to pick a favourite sport but I get the most enjoyment out of climbing. I use it as a time to totally clear my head and really appreciate the beauty this world has to offer."

As an instructor, this is also where I tend to see the most growth in people, from feeling like they aren’t capable of even trying, to pushing themselves to achieve something great. 

What was your experience in the outdoors and Plas y Brenin before you joined?

My first experiences in the outdoors were with the Young People’s Service, mountain biking and caving. I’m not from a particularly outdoor orientated family, nor did I have friends in the industry, so I had to find my path through attending clubs and courses on my own.

Then I did my Duke of Edinburgh award and loved every minute of it. Eventually I was invited to be a young leader with other youth groups, and I started to realise that this amazing industry existed.

The first time I visited Plas y Brenin I felt sure that everyone else was better than me. I was quite intimidated, especially as a perfectionist. That’s not the case anymore as the instructors and my colleagues are so supportive.

"I have a real fear of failure, especially in front of experts, but the instructors here have helped me grow past that because it’s ok to fail, that’s how you learn. The important thing is to learn from your mistakes."

After completing my degree in Adventure Sports Coaching in 2017 at the University of Central Lancashire, and spending time developing with Plas y Brenin instructors as part of this, my love and interest of the outdoors grew.

I’ve been developing as a freelance outdoor instructor, discovering my own leadership style, and growing my understanding for more technical aspects of climbing, mountaineering and paddling.

In October 2019, I was selected as one of eight women across the country to attend the first ever Women’s Outdoor Leadership Course, run by the Outward Bound Trust, after they had identified a gender gap in the industry. This included ten weeks of technical skills on the water and in the mountains, across the Lake District and Scotland. We revisited theoretical learning and psychology models and had the opportunity to work alongside more experienced instructors through a mentoring scheme.

I love to engage in the outdoors in my personal life too. I have travelled to France mountain biking, set myself the challenge of completing all the Wainwright’s (watch this space), and swimming across all the lakes in the Lake District. I most recently spent two months skiing in the French and Swiss alps. 

What made you interested in pursuing both hobbies and a career in the outdoors?  

I value the time and effort of all the instructors who have helped me develop my love for the outdoors and make me into the person I am today.

Just like those instructors who passed on their enthusiasm, energy and excitement, I put the same passion and drive into giving people the support and guidance they need to experience everything the outdoors has to offer.

I recognise that many people feel they are not capable of engaging in adventurous activities independently, either due to a lack of technical knowledge or the confidence that they can achieve their ambitions.

"I definitely feel the outdoors has so much to offer in terms of decision making, interpersonal skills, general knowledge and personal organisation and should be accessible to everyone. It would be amazing to see it as part of the national school curriculum one day."

Why did you choose Plas y Brenin?

As a national sports centre it has some of the best instructors in the country, world even, so where better to learn, than to learn with the best? And the scenery… it’s to die for.

If you could add one course to Plas y Brenin what would it be and why?

In today’s world I think that people are increasingly spending more time working on their mental health. The research behind the effects of wilderness / adventure therapy is growing increasingly, as a natural means of promoting physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. I think it’s a fantastic area to develop. A wilderness or adventure therapy course is something I can see happening in the future. 

What’s wilderness / adventure therapy?

The idea is that if a person simply visits a natural area and walks in a relaxed way there are calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits to be achieved. 

I’ve believed this to be true for a while, based my own personal experiences, but now I've done the research and various scientific studies have demonstrated its effects.

There are lots of scientifically proven benefits such as it’s ability to boost immune system functioning, reduced blood pressure and stress, improved mood, sleep and energy levels - with an overall increased sense of happiness and feeling of connectivity.

How do you think the public perceive the outdoors?

I think many perceive the outdoors to be predominantly, a masculine arena, or that you need to be ultra-fit and strong to be able to perform at a high level. I also think a lot of people think what we do is scary, dangerous, or risky. 

I’m not in to burning bras and I’m not an ardent feminist but I agree that it would be good to have more female role models and advocates in the industry and it’s already changing for the positive. Different types of people are underrepresented in lots of industries, and it’s important to address the imbalance and ensure accessible opportunities are available to people; equally and fairly.

I really want to be a positive role model for young girls and women of all ages, backgrounds, and body size. I want to do this by not only showing them they are more than capable of engaging in the outdoors but thriving in it too. Hopefully in the future this will bring more female leaders into the industry and more women who want to give it a go. I am willing to work towards changing perceptions and challenge stereotypes for future generations.

"Performing at a high level in any sport or role, requires lots of different facets in a person. Yes, being fit can help, but it’s not the only thing that’s required. I’d say attitude, commitment, routine, hard work and most importantly passion is what it takes to perform at a high level in most things.

"It’s also important to say that the outdoors is for everyone, it’s not about being elite for the majority of people, nor is it about fast scary rides, climbs, ascents or descents. Safety is very important, so is preparation and prior knowledge but people shouldn’t be deterred, they should be responsible."

For me it is important to help educate as many people as possible about the risks and benefits associated with everything we do, and equip people with the right knowledge and tools to allow them to engage safely outdoors on their own. There’s so much you can do in the outdoors that’s easy to access, available for free or low cost, and that’s on your doorstep.

During the pandemic the benefits of the outdoors have been widely publicised, and enjoyed, which is a really good thing.

Do you think there’s been other positives to come out of the pandemic?

Yes, I think lots of us will have formed better relationships and we’ll be better at communicating – even when we can’t be face to face.

Plus, tech and social media has facilitated us being more social, not being anti-social as I would have pegged it before.

I took for granted being able to see my friends, family and grandparents, and now that I can’t be with them in person, and can’t hug, it’s affected me. It’s helped me put in to perspective who I need in my life, and to build stronger bonds.

And finally, do you have a funny fact you'd like to share?

Do you know Mel Robbins? She’s a motivational speaker that inspires me to change and challenge my thinking for personal and professional growth.

It’s not really a ‘funny’ fact, but Mel Robbins’ five second rule, or brain hack, as she calls it, is effective and some might say surprising. You’d never think something so simple could work.

"Mel Robbins advocates counting backwards, through 5-4-3-2-1 seconds, to help avoid fear, and to avoid making excuses ‘not’ to do things. It really works and can help you to change behaviours and move to a positive mindset.

I use it to push past excuses and fears, and those inner thoughts I know I shouldn’t listen to. Mindset matters!"

Check out her TED talks and website. They're really good. I hope you find them useful.





Meet the team of talented adventurers, who will lead the activities on Plas y Brenin's Epic Adventure Activity Days this Spring and Summer season. 


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