Breath Hard

It is something we all take for granted, and something we all need to do every day. Taking a breath shouldn’t be as hard as it is for some. No breath I take is taken for granted. Every deep breath in the summer air or cool winter wind is every breath that I fight for day in day out. From the morning nebuliser to the afternoon antibiotics, I will fight and win each breath, for me and others out there with Cystic Fibrosis.

After being born with a collapsed lung and being diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, many people would have never guessed that by the age of 21, I would have ran my first marathon, trekked in the Himalayas over 5000m and through Vietnamese jungles, cycled 430km to Paris, completed the National Three peaks Challenge in under 24 hours and most importantly, raised thousands of pounds for multiple charities. Why? I am fighting for each breath and living wild has given me my motivation and drive to hit my goals and help others. Don’t feel sorry for me, people with Cystic Fibrosis have a beautiful life. From the severe coughing pain, I have managed to see more beauty in each day than most people may in their life. The worse part of my life would be reaching the end and realizing I never truly lived.

Find what gives your life purpose and meaning and chase after it. It is never all fun and games, and to reach my goals has proved immensely challenging both physically and mentally. With having Cystic Fibrosis, people wouldn’t guess you are ill and I repeatedly get people saying ‘but you don’t look ill’. CF has made me sympathize more with people from all backgrounds, as just because ‘I don’t look ill’ doesn’t mean that I am not ill and the same goes for every person, no one knows what you are battling, so do it for you. I live wild for me.

I am most at peace with myself facing the elements. It’s funny because people believe that you need to be a strong mountaineer or an expeditioner to understand that and feel the vulnerable sense you feel facing nature. But some of my best moments have come from leaving my front door for a long run, or choosing to go for a walk at midnight in the dark and bitter hours of a winters night. We choose to take adventures when we decide to go on a different course for a dog walking route or by walking a different route to work which could be cross country and longer. The more confidence you grow, the more you experiment and the greater the adventures you plan. Looking at it realistically, I never lost that sense of adventure we have from when we are children: the only difference being is that I am an adult and I can truly live those greater adventures; we all can, if we believe. Sometimes it’s about remembering who we were before the world asked us to change.

Having Cystic Fibrosis is limiting, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. Although, I am living and chasing my dreams with every day that cystic fibrosis tries to hold me back. We are all human, we are all fragile and I get ill and have set backs as much as the next person but that doesn’t mean I am going to let it affect me and the next person. We are all a sum result of the people we have around us and we are all in a position to motivate and raise the people around us higher in life and in happiness. It’s as simple as Plain Sailor puts it: ‘These are the stories of the extraordinary doing the extraordinary.’ As a teenager, losing ambition, failing at school and acting rebellious, I would have never dreamed that I could become a mountain guide, or even at 19 years old trek above 5000m into the Himalayas, experience altitude sickness and the bitter -15 degrees cold which made me feel more alive than ever before. Plain Sailor is the platform for sharing your story and bringing together a community of individuals strong enough to say ‘I can’, and I am proud to be one of them.


What’s next? MontBlanc in aid of the Oak and Furrows Wildlife Rescue Centre, I am coming for you.

Mindset for Minors

‘99.9% need not apply’, and that’s not just down to the physical requirements, but the mentality. Indeed, many would argue that the latter is more important than the former. Time as a Royal Marine builds a unique mindset, which not only creates an elite soldier, but persists as a standard which transitions over to the civilian world. This mindset becomes ingrained for life. A vital part of this mentality is a strong ethos towards work, understanding how hard work and commitment achieves results, simple. Another trait is respect for your peers, learning to recognise strengths and weaknesses, and playing on that to bring the best out in yourself, and those surrounding you. Former Marine, Dean Kirk knows all about this, and he has taken it upon himself to implement certain aspects of this mentality into kids. His company, Apex Commando have developed unique programs designed to teach the younger generation how to utilise this way of thinking to excel in their studies, build their confidence, and actively create a positive learning environment.

Apex Commando’s founder – Dean Kirk

Before joining the Royal marines in 2007, Dean spent his life growing up in Germany with his family and brother, Kris Kirk, a fellow Former Royal Marine and now business partner. After their service in the Corps, Dean and Kris spent time working in the maritime security industry.  Ample time over night shifts on board ship allowed them to formulate ideas as to how they could utilise their experiences and mindset gained in the Royal Marines, to build a business helping others achieve their goals. It became apparent to them both, that their talents could greatly benefit today’s younger generation, showing disengaged students how adopting certain aspects of a Royal Marines mentality could be used to excel in their studies and overall growing experience. In 2016 these ideas and aspirations became reality; thus, Apex Commando was created.

Today’s younger generation live in a time where mental health issues are increasing at a drastic rate, with depression and anxiety cases alone seeing a 70% increase in the last 25 years. A quick search through social media will highlight the pertinence of the problem in our young generation. In the past three years alone, hospital admissions for teenagers with eating disorders has doubled. It would be impossible and wrong, for an unqualified person to try and list the reasons why this has happened, but we cannot overlook the dramatic effects that the mental and social pressures that school has on children. Research claims that exam stress is a significant trigger for mental illness in young people, and is often something they don’t understand how to deal with productively. We’ve all been there, and can all surely empathise. Low self-esteem and online bullying is often cultivated through the pressure of social media today, and is a core subject that Apex Commando’s program aims to address.

One of Apex Commando’s two main campaigns—Project Growth—tackles five core subjects relevant to the issues today’s children face. Pupils are educated weekly about nutrition, first aid, bullying, career aspirations, and substance abuse. The course takes place over a ten-week period, with the aim to tackle the subjects using a variety of methods. The team at Apex Commando couple discussions with physical activity, specifically targeting children who may have become disengaged at school, or those who lack self-confidence. In some sessions, the students will engage in physical activity, not just for health and well-being, but also to comprehend how effort achieves results. It is a simplified and fun way for the kids to understand the direct correlation between input and output.

Dean and brother Kris Kirk


By bringing children into discussions over bullying, Dean’s team, have been able to significantly change their mentality, highlighting the impact that words can have on each other. The change in attitude isn’t only applicable to the classroom, with the campaign not only realigning their attitude towards peers, but towards teachers and parents as well. The team became aware that much of the time kids will be completely unaware they are even bullying, and simply need the issue brought to their attention. Apex Commando are effectively trying to ‘reprogram’ their minds into a more open-minded way of thinking, which encourages mutual respect, and in turn leads to mirrored support between the students. Dean’ s students are taught not only be the best version of themselves, but to recognise the strengths and weaknesses in their peers, and use this to create the best versions of themselves.

So far Dean and the team at Apex Commando have received great feedback from the programme, not just from teachers, but from the pupils themselves in the weekly sessions. Here at Plain Sailor we are looking forward to the future for Apex Commando and ultimately the youth of today. We believe that Dean and the team are inspiring role models for our younger generation, with a simple but hard hitting message for all, and we at Plain Sailor are proud to support them with their endeavours. The familiar tone resonates throughout this article that what you put in, you get out. The issues presented are not something that can be fixed overnight, but we believe this concept is a healthy, fun and sustainable way to contribute to the well being of kids today.

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