Why Rats Are a Writer’s Best Friend (or just MY best friend)

Ever since I have moved into an apartment with my boyfriend, I have been looking for the perfect apartment pet. I have a linnie bird back home, but unfortunately carrying him from the city to home for school breaks would be too difficult.

This week, I finally decided on getting a rat. Contrary to popular belief, rats are a great pet to have; they are super clean (seriously, mine won’t stop grooming itself), cuddly, low-maintenance, and learn to love you. My little buddy here is still getting used to being around me, and he is already falling asleep in the legs of my pyjama pants as I’m reading a book.

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So in celebration of Pikachu (yes, that’s what I named him), here is a list of why a pet rat can become a writer’s best friend. Or maybe it’s just me. (Warning: this applies only to writers who are like me, meaning that they love cuddling and giving/receiving affection from pets).

They Are Low Maintenance

Apart from the fact that they do need to be handled often, rats are a very low-maintenance pet. Make sure their cage is clean and that they have good food and water, and you’re all set. They can even be litter trained, which means less cleaning to do. For a writer who is bus with writing and other occupations in his or her life, this is great.

They Are Shoulder Pets

Many rats love to just hang out on your shoulder. This pretty much means that you can do other stuff you need to do while spending time with your beloved pet. Need to wash your dishes? Let it hang out. Typing at your computer? Put him on your shoulder.

They’re Cheap

Rats are not expensive. The food isn’t that expensive, especially if you buy in bulk. The most expensive cost initially will be the cage, but it doesn’t have to be. Websites like Ebay and Kijiji let you find others who will give you good deals for their old cages. I got mine for 80$, and it’s a decent size. So, if you don’t have a lot of money to spend on a pet, a rat might be a good idea. 

They Love to Cuddle

Either while I’m writing, reading, or playing on my DS, all while I’m lying down on the couch, Pikachu is there with me. When he’s tired, he cuddles on me and falls asleep. When he’s not, he explores all around me or licks my arm. Basically, he’s there to give affection even as I do solitary things. I think that is the reason I love him the most. Things that I do as a writer – things that humans, like my boyfriend, can’t participate in with me – are things that a rat can join you for a cuddle any time.

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Do you like pets? If so, what type do you prefer?

I like everything from cats to dogs and reptiles and rodents, but parrots are my favourite. When I have a car and a bigger apartment, I definitely want a parrot. And a cat. And a dog. And maybe a lizard, along with a bunch of rats.

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Get Moving in 2014- Part 3

Welcome back to the last instalment of Get Moving in 2014. This week, I introduce you to my favourite workout routine:

This Week’s Focus: Weightlifting

I know, I know. A lot of you will say that you are not strong enough to do that kind of thing. If you are a girl, you might even say that you are afraid to get big n’ bulky. Here is a great article to prove you wrong.

http://www.stumptuous.com/strength-without-size-how-to-get-stronger-without-getting-bulky

If you were looking to freshen up your routine, try something new, upgrade from circuit training, or just wanted to start moving in the first place, weight lifting could be for you. However, a lot of equipment is necessary to perform most of the moves. A membership to a good gym or an investment in home equipment is necessary for weightlifting.

Here is why you should consider trying it out:

You gain weight, but lose fat. 

The history of my weight goes like this: I used to weight 140 pounds, but I felt mushy and weak and out of breath most of the time. I gained about ten pounds during my first semester of CEGEP. Then, I got down to 135 by doing cardio, circuit training, and calorie cutting. Today, I am around 150 pounds again, but I am toned and strong and as long as I keep my workout routine, I can eat to my hunger’s desire (but not junk food!). I don’t look the same at 150 pounds now than I did at 140 pounds several years ago; I look much healthier, and I feel much better about myself now.

The first picture is me about 4 years ago. The second picture is me weighing about 135 pounds. The last picture is me with my newfound strength and more weight in muscle. I may be skinnier in the second picture, but believe me: I feel much better about the third one.

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So don’t be alarmed if you see the scale going up. In fact, forget the scale. You will know if you gain fat when you can’t button your pants anymore. And even then, it might be your glutes growing.

More Food

Lifting weights will necessitate you to eat more food than when you are not lifting. Doing a heavy rep requires a lot of effort from your body. If you do it right, it feels good, too! Just make sure to eat good foods and not indulge in that extra cupcake just because you lifted your weights today. The empty calories will leave you even hungrier twenty minutes later.

It’s Good for You

Weightlifting will not improve your speed or your reflexes, but it does give your heart quite a workout, even though you are not really doing any ‘cardio’. So if you hate the feeling of intense cardio, weightlifting could be for you. You’re still working out your heart, but the breaks between your effort will prevent your pulse from going too fast when it isn’t necessary.

Plus, people tend to lose muscle and bone mass as they get older. Weightlifting is a good preventative measure against this. And it is not because your bones have already started weakening that you cannot start lifting weights; just start lighter! It’s never too late to begin.

 

The Routine

Some people may think that weightlifting involves tons of super complicated moves and that you have to spend 2 hours a day, six days a week at the gym to perform them all. That is simply not the case.

The best weightlifting moves are compound movements that work several muscle groups. It only takes a few moves to target your whole body.

I don’t have a routine for you that I have made up. That is because I swear by the Stronglifts routine. It’s simple, it works, and it’s only half an hour, three times a week. Visit http http://www.stronglifts.com for more information on this routine.

Quick Tip:

If you don’t have access to a squat rack (because yes, the squat is a VERY important move for your entire body), try overhead squats instead. You have to start very light- I’m talking 10 pounds light- or else you could lose your balance. The thing with this move is that your whole body works to stabilize you as you squat down with the bar in your arms- especially your abs. I don’t have a six pack, but underneath there somewhere my abs are stone hard because of this move.

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Thank you for taking the time to read this series.

And thank yourself if you are trying out one of the options available to you. Remember, anything is already better than nothing. Just make sure to find something you enjoy doing! I wish you good luck in your fitness journey.

 

Get Moving in 2014- Part 2

Welcome back to another instalment of “Get Moving in 2014!” Last week, I discussed bodyweight exercises as well as why it’s important to get your exercise in, especially if part of your job is sitting down all day.

Today’s Focus: Sports and Group Training

Sports

It is possible that you are the kind of person who hates the idea of locking yourself up in the gym and picking a machine/piece of equipment. Sure, the idea might sound a little better if you have a gym buddy, but it doesn’t make you happy, and frankly, if you don’t like it that much, chances are that you won’t stick to your workout goals.

Considering leisure sports as a work-out activity is a great idea, in this case. Whether you prefer individual sports such as running, biking, or swimming, or if you would rather join a class of group sports like soccer or badminton, it’s exercise either way. Sports all have their own benefits that gym training may not necessarily have, such as developing faster reflexes.

For example, I signed up for badminton with my boyfriend once a week. At the beginning, I kind of sucked (in fact, I am terrible at any team sport), but towards the end of the first session I had began developing better reflexes, and I found that my body reacted before my brain did much more often than at the beginning.

As a plus factor, team sports can be a lot of fun! They can quickly become competitive amongst friends, and if you have a big family, it can entertain everyone while making sure that you are staying active. I have a friend who has a very large family, and they have an ‘Outside Sports Day’ every year during the holidays. Everyone can play the most basic sports, even the youngest toddlers and the oldest grandparents!

Individual sports do not cultivate reflexes and decision-making skills as much as team sports, but the cardiovascular endurance needed to perform is certainly higher. Swimming is a great example of a sport that anyone can do, especially when recovering from an injury. Trying to swim 40 lanes (1 km) will be a more intense workout, but for beginners and recovering people, starting out with only kicking your feet (with a flutterboard) is a low-impact yet very good exercise. 

Group Training

If sports aren’t your thing, group training offer another fun alternative to working out. The positive is that dozens of options exist, you get to have an instructor to motivate you, you’re not alone, and some classes are just plain fun. The negative is that you might not enjoy every class, so that means you will have to try out a lot of different options available to you locally.

Zumba, Circuit Training, Cardio Pump, Spinning, Aquafitness: these are only a few of the options.

(By the way, I have given Aquafitness classes before, and it’s not just for old ladies. If you are a beginner to water activity in general, it will get you sweating, except you’re in water, so you don’t get all sweaty!)

If you have a friend who is also interested in getting fit, why don’t you team up and try to find a class together? Plus, having another person with you keeps you accountable and will motivate you to get your butt to said class in the first place.

If you prefer working out from home and are interested in workout DVD’s, I strongly recommend Jillian Michaels. Any one of her workouts will make you work hard and get you results if you stick to it. No matter how fit I get, whenever I go back and do a Jillian Michaels video, it’s almost as hard as the first time I ever tried it. Yes, it’s hard. But it’s short (25=35 minutes, depending on the video) and it works.

If you want to keep it simple and do circuit training at home without a DVD, several routines are available on the Internet. Here is one that I have designed for beginners. You will notice that it incorporates some of the moves from last week’s workout. That is because they are important moves – the squat, for example. I promise you the squat will appear in next week’s workout as well, in a different incarnation.

The Workout

Do all the repetitions for every move in a circuit, then repeat the circuit once. When the first circuit has been done twice, move on to circuit two. Follow the same procedure for all circuits.

 

Circuit 1

Squats with dumbbell in hands: 20 reps

Jumping jacks: 30 reps

Chair hold against a wall: 30 seconds

 

Circuit 2

Pushups: 15 reps

Jog in place: 30 seconds

Front arm raises with dumbell (weight of choice): 12 reps

 

Circuit 3

Lunges with barbell curls: 10 reps each leg

Side arm raises with barbell: 12 reps

Leg raises: 15 reps

 

If this type of exercise interests you, try this workout. It’s not too long, and it has both cardio and light strength training. 

Remember: don’t over-think it. You want to get moving and healthy, it doesn’t really matter what you decide to do, as long as you do something and you like what you’re doing. It took me 2 years to find out the type of exercise that I really like. But that will be for our next subject.

To be continued…

 

 

Get Moving in 2014- Part 1

If your life is similar to mine, there isn’t a lot of ‘moving’ involved. The things that take up my time are mostly sitting-based. 

I sit on the bus to my classes. I sit in my classes. 

I sit to work on my novel. I’m half-sitting half lying down on my couch as I write these words.

I sit as I play video games.

I stand as I cook! (but then I sit as I eat.)

Studying and writing, which are stationary practices, take up a lot of my time. Maybe getting ideas for writing can happen as I take a refreshing walk, but that is about as far as it goes. My point is, getting physical exercise is key when living an extremely sedentary life like mine.

I make my daily workouts a priority, and allow myself one day a week where I don’t have to move at all. But usually, that day ends up being Saturday, and I end up moving as I spend the day walking around the city with friends or visiting exhibitions or our favourite shops. 

But sometimes it’s difficult to get into exercising. It took me several tries over a few years to actually start working out consistently, so I know how that feels. Most of the time, it’s difficult because there are so many options and so much information available that we don’t know what to trust.

Your best bet is to start simple.

Want to get moving in 2014? This three-part article will cumulate different ways to get moving as well as three beginner workout routines for three different styles. Note that everything I write is based on my own experience and research. I am not a doctor or a health specialist, but I will not be telling you to do specific things, either. These are simply suggestions.

Today’s Focus: Bodyweight Exercise

If you are the type of person who is just beginning or who is intimidated by the weights, there is no need to worry. The weight of your own body is enough to get you in shape. 

Practices available: Yoga, Pilates, and Bodyweight Circuits

What is great about these types of workout is that they don’t have to be expensive. Yoga is better when done in a group class, but there are tons of routines you can find on the web as well. The same thing applies to Pilates. As for Bodyweight Circuits, they can easily be constructed from moves that you know as well as found everywhere on the web, like the previous two examples. 

Bodyweight exercises can be used for beginner workouts, but they can also be taken to further levels. I’m talking Cirque du Soleil level here. Basically, bodyweight workouts are available to people of all levels.

I have actually posted a video of a simple bodyweight workout that you can adapt to your schedule, abilities, and mood. It’s available through this link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4477CLJEn8

 

It won’t cost anything to try. This one workout can take from anywhere between 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how many reps you would like to do. It’s risk free!

(unless you try the flamingo and fall over and split your head on a piece of furniture. I would advise you to clear the space before trying this one move. Believe me, it looks easy, but it’s not.)

To be continued…

My Resolutions for 2014

Happy New Year!

I only recently started to make New Year’s resolutions for myself. Usually, I write down very specific goals, because being vague will only be a better excuse for me not to perform well for that resolution, whatever it may be. 

I don’t make resolutions to change my life. I make them to remember to do the things I love doing, because sometimes I tend to forget about those things when I’m busy at life. And isn’t life supposed to be all about doing the things you enjoy?

So here are my biggest resolutions for 2014.

Write a Book

That would be the vague version of my resolution. In fact, I want to finish the first book of my Shark Academy Trilogy. Now, several people have told me that I should not rush writing like this, especially since I am also attending University and working full time in the summer. I get that forcing a deadline for a book might not be a good idea for some people. However, it is crucial for me. If I do not give myself a tangible timeline for writing, I will let it slip. I might get bored of the project and decide to move on, because hey, nothing is making me stick to it! But am making myself stick to it.

It worked for 2013 with Abiding Heart. So here goes for another book this year.

Gain strength

I’ve done the ‘losing weight’ resolution before, and that was okay, but this year I want to focus on gaining strength. I now realize that it isn’t all about the number on the scale. I weigh the same number now as I did two years ago, when I told myself I wanted to lose weight. I did lose weight, but strength training made me heavier again. The difference is that I don’t feel flabby anymore.

(Let’s not mention the flabbiness factor that came from too many desserts during the holidays, shhhhh…)

So this year, I want to continue weightlifting and see where I can take my strength. No more cardio or counting calories. I realized that weightlifting is fun, so why not do it?

Keep the blog/Youtube channel going

I have tried several times before to write a blog, and I have always failed. So far so good, however. My resolution is to keep it going, because if I don’t tell myself that, I will give it up in a few months. But not this time, oh, no.

Same goes for my Youtube channel. I realize that I may not have a lot of time to put into making videos, but I want to try to make at least a few.

 

Are you making resolutions this year? If you are, what are they?