Introvert or Extrovert? (and why I care)

It goes without saying that I love to write. I also love to read. When I am doing either of these activities, I am submerging myself in another world. In the case of writing, it is even better because this world is in my own head. When I give myself time to do these things, I give myself a gift of sacred intimacy with my own mind.

The truth is that I need these moments in order to stay healthy. If I don’t get enough ‘me’ time, anxiety will begin to acumulate and I will begin to have more trouble dealing with social interactions. On the other hand, I need to be with people. I could never live alone without going crazy. I also need to do social ‘things’ in order to feel good, such as hanging out with friends, going to parties, etc. If I don’t, then I have a crisis and feel like I am not ‘going out’ enough.

You may be familiar with the terms introvert and extrovert. Apparently, two-thirds of people are extroverts, and the other third are introverts. It just determines where you get your energy from. Extroverts basically get their energy from being around others for most of the day. We can associate these people with those social butterflies we all know. They will be the first to ask one of their friends to hang out, whatever it is they are doing.

Introverts will be the friends that almost never ask. They are associated with the socially awkward nerds. An introvert does not always feel the need to have a companion to accomplish their daily tasks, such as doing errands. He or she will be fine alone.

It may not sound important to make the distinction to some people. However, realizing what type of person you are enables you to adjust your lifestyle to whatever makes you happy. If you realize that you are only going to the parties on every Friday night just to please your friend, then it may not be making you happy. If you feel miserable studying for that exam by yourself, get a study buddy. Sometimes making that conscious effort will make your days better.

If you are like me, you might be thinking that you have a little bit of both. Actually, most people have a little bit of both, but everyone belongs to one side or the other. I realized not long ago that despite the image I try to put out of myself, I really am an introvert. I like to come off as the friendly girl who likes to make new friends.

The thing is, I DO like making friends. Except I realized I don’t need a shit-ton of them. I feel much happier when I am spending time with my closest friends than with a bunch of people that I am trying to get to know. Usually, when I am in the latter situation, I will need more time to myself; basically, I leave early. That won’t stop me from spending time with new friends; it just means I spend less time with them.

A good day to me is a day in which I get to see people I love. A good day is also a day where I get several hours to myself, doing the things I like – such as writing or cuddling with my boyfriend/sisters/rats for a movie. I realized that family does not count when I talk about people. I could be with family all day, every day, and not feel anxious. That is probably why I don’t mind spending a lot of time with close friends; after all, they are like family.

So what does that mean for me? That means I don’t have to feel guilty for leaving early at a party. It means I have to recognize these needs in order to stay healthy and remain productive and happy. It means I should strive to spend quality time with loved ones instead of trying to go to ‘cool’ events, unless I’m in the mood to meet new people – in that case, it is a great opportunity to make new friends. It means I have to remember what makes ME happy, and do those things, so that when I do go out there, I can be my best self and make others happy that way.

What does it mean for you? Do you believe the way you are living your life socially speaking is making you happy? If not, ask yourself why you are doing certain things. I am not a selfish person, but in some circumstances, it is okay to think about oneself.

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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.

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?

How Video Games Inspired My Work

Before I was even born, video games were set to be an important part of my life. My parents had an NES, and I came to life as the child of a Zelda-loving mom and first-shooter player dad. Let me just share a moment of silence for the NES that drowned in a basement flood just a few years later, before I go on.

Okay, I’m all good.

When I was a kid, I didn’t ‘play’ like most other kids did. When I was with a group of other kids, it would be different, but back then I didn’t really have many friends. The friends that I did have only belonged to my school life. Back home, my two little sisters were my only friends.

I loved playing with my Barbie dolls, but I didn’t spend my time brushing their hair and playing house. My Barbies were adventurers, spies, or epic princes going on an intense journey to save the princess from the evil dragon. That doesn’t differ that much from other kids, but with video games, it was a totally different story. If I played Mario 64, I eventually did collect the stars to save Princess Peach, but usually that was not how I played the game. First of all, I wasn’t playing as Mario at all. In my head, he was another character (the name of the guy depended on which period of my childhood we go back to), and he had his own personality. I would use the open world of Mario 64 to tell my own story, and yes, I did talk to myself as I did that.

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Often, the stories that I made up as I played ended up on paper, first as pictures when I was younger, and eventually into picture books that my mother would bind with yarn.

My sisters were fond of video games as well. When we played together, we would make up our own characters based on the video game characters, and make up our own stories that we would act out. Eventually, we even made up our own universes; I had the world of the sun, my middle sister had world of the moon, and the youngest had the world of the stars.

We only learned later that the sun is also a star, but shhh.

The reason we invented our own characters instead of just acting out as Mario or Princess Peach is that I, for one, was just never able to. I couldn’t bring myself to act out a character that was not mine, even as a kid. I felt restrained with what I could do. I wanted to explore, create, innovate.

That is also why I cannot write fan fiction. I have tried several times, but was only mildly successful a few times. In all cases, I was writing about video games.

That is because my imagination works from the inside. The characters I create have to come from inside only for me to be successful with them. (This is also the reason I have always had trouble working in groups at school, especially when we had to be creative; I always considered this one of my biggest flaws.) The thing with video games is that they take you inside of them. You experience the storyline much more tangibly than with a movie or a book.

Most people say that video games inhibit creativity and playtime. In my case, video games were what sparked creativity and playtime with my sisters and me. And in turn, playtime sparked my stories.

The first ‘novel’ I have ever written – I use novel very openly here, as I was only eleven and I would never actually consider this manuscript as useful for anything – was based on playtime with a friend at school. We made up characters for ourselves, and invented issues and played them out. When we finished the game several weeks later, I decided to write about it. This spawned about a hundred hand written pages of (terrible) fiction.

So what is my point here? It is that video games are not bad for kids – that is, if it is controlled. Up until I graduated high school, my parents limited the amount of video games my sisters and I were allowed to play per day. During week days, it was no more than half an hour, and one hour and a half on weekend days.

Our parents actually had more of a problem with us reading than playing video games. I can’t count the times we were yelled at because we wouldn’t put our books down to do our chores. We never had that problem with video games up until we were old enough to decide how many hours we wanted to play.

And finally, one video game in particular inspired the setting of the Rioux Fight Club in my book, Abiding Heart. The fight club is where half of the book takes place. The first room is a large, luxurious hall where people can wait until the next fight begins. The actual fighting arena is surrounded by a hallway, in which the fighters have their rooms.

If you’ve ever played Paper Mario: A Thousand Year Door, this might sound familiar.

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Yes, the Rioux Fight Club from my book is almost entirely based on the Glitz Pit from A Thousand Year Door.

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So I have to thank video games for where I am today. Without them, I don’t even know if I would be a writer.