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How to Activate Your Muscles for a Better Workout

Ever been working out and you start to wonder where you’re supposed to be feeling it? You know, when it feels like every muscle BUT the one you are trying to target is getting a workout in? I’ve so been there.

After being introduced to activation exercises, I noticed a huge difference in my workouts when I lift. Activation exercises are the best way to get the right muscles working and grinding.

Lazy muscles are a real thing. Activation exercises wake your muscles up and get them ready to work out. The glutes, lats and abdominals tend to be the most common lazy muscles. Improving on engaging our muscles before our workouts will help us restore muscle imbalances, exercise more effectively, exercise more effectively and prevent injury.

What is muscle activation?

Muscle activation is part of warming up, which helps to wake up our muscles and get them ready to work out. By focusing on each separate muscle group, we isolate them and get them “fired up.”

Activation exercises are also designed to enhance the mind-muscle connection.


Why is muscle activation important?

When we’re not working out, we tend to live sedentary lives. Many people work office jobs, which means they’re sitting for 8-10 hours straight.

Over time, muscles become “lazy” and don’t fire up during an exercise. The most common lazy muscles include the glutes, lats and abdominal.

To compensate for lazy muscles other muscles take over leading to reduced effectiveness of the exercise, muscle imbalances, and increased risk of injury.


Young fit woman working out outside and warming up: Lazy muscles are a real thing. That's where muscle activation comes in. Activation exercises wake your muscles up and get them ready to work out. The glutes, lats and abdominals tend to be the most common lazy muscles. Improving on engaging our muscles before our workouts will help us restore muscle imbalances, exercise more effectively, exercise more effectively and prevent injury.

How to activate your muscles

1.Spend only a few minutes doing the exercises. It’s not about fatiguing the muscles, it’s about warming them up.
2.Go slowly and envision the muscles contracting to enhance the mind-muscle connection.
3.You can use body weight or resistance bands. (or light weights, if you prefer)

My favorite way to activate my muscles is with resistance bands.

For example, I’m very quad dominant during leg day. I feel it SO much in my quads, but not enough in my glutes (where I want to feel it!). My leg day warmup routine looks a little something like this:

Notice that I don’t activate my quads because I want to focus on getting my glutes fired up. My gym doesn’t have resistance bands so I make sure to bring mine along.

I usually remember to bring them on leg day but let’s be real, I tend to forget them for the other days.

You can also activate upper body with resistance bands, but I find that for me it is just as effective to activate it with light weights or body weight.

Remember, everyone is different so do some trial and error to figure out which method works best for your lifestyle and body.


Activation Exercises Ideas

Here’s my favorite guide for activation exercises ideas. It gives various activation exercises ideas for each muscle group that you should be incorporating before your workouts.

Pick two exercises per body group and have at it!


Have you incorporated muscle activation into your routine?

If you’re struggling to get to the gym and need some motivation, check out my top tips to reduce gym anxiety and work out with confidence.



12 Simple Self-Care Tips and Ideas for a Healthy Life

Do you truly take care of yourself? Most of us are quick to say that we do but struggle when it comes to thinking exactly how and how often we do it.

Society has convinced us that taking care of ourselves is selfish. Many of us feel guilty for hitting pause to do things that make us feel refreshed and ready to take on anything.

Even when we think we’re taking care of ourselves, we’re not doing it enough and we tend to neglect what our minds and bodies really need. By putting “me time” on the back burner, it’s no wonder we often feel stressed, exhausted and overwhelmed.

What is self-care? Self-care is any activity that we purposely do to take care of our mental,emotional and physical health. Self-care is important for overall wellness. Here are a 12 self-care tips and ideas for a healthier life.

Setting aside time to unwind is so important for our overall wellness. Knowing when we need a break and when we need to hit pause, contributes to a healthier mind and body by allowing us to de-stress and recharge.


What is self-care?

According to Psych Central, “Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” It’s important to remember that self-care looks different for everybody.


Why are self-care habits important?

An act of self-care is meant to refuel us and give us an outlet to reconnect with ourselves in the midst of a busy life. Have you heard the saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup”?

We need self-care to nourish our mind, body and soul so we can reciprocate those positive feelings to those who surround us. Studies also show that good self-care activities are key to improved mood and reduced anxiety.

It keeps us healthy, happy and more in tune with our minds and bodies.

If you’re struggling to make self-care a priority, here are simple tips and ideas to get you started. Plus, I’ve included a free checklist that you can download to plan out your self-care for the week!


Tips for establishing self-care habits

  • Start simple
    If you’re just starting out, finding the time to do too much at once will be overwhelming. Commit to doing a small act of self-care at least once a week to start. Once you get comfortable and find your rhythm, you can decide how much or how little you need to fully recharge.
  • Know yourself
    Ask yourself what you really need. Remember, all self-care routines aren’t alike so you need to find what works for you. For example, going to the gym may not be your form of self-care but taking a walk around your neighborhood is! Be gentle with yourself, know what you like and don’t like, and give yourself what you need.
  • Plan it
    Self-care habits are so much more doable when you plan them out and not just let them happen. Get an agenda and pencil in that yoga session at 6 a.m., reading time at 6 p.m., and your unwinding time at 9 p.m. Make your self-care routine a non-reschedulable meeting with yourself. This will help you stick to your plan and hold you accountable.

Read this next: How to Prioritize Self-Care And Make Time For Yourself

What is self-care? Self-care is any activity that we purposely do to take care of our mental,emotional and physical health. Self-care is important for overall wellness. Here are a 12 self-care tips and ideas for a healthier life.

Ideas for taking care of yourself

Here are a few simple ideas to get you started on your self-care routine:

  • Read a book
    Step away from reality and lose yourself in your favorite self-help book or novel.
  • Declutter/organize
    Tackle one area in your house that needs some cleaning up and watch the clutter disappear with your stress. Tidy spaces make for a peaceful mind.
  • Exercise
    Exercise is proven to help you release stress. Go for a walk, lift weights, swim, or do yoga – whatever floats your boat, just get your body moving!
  • Take a bath
    Diffuse your favorite oils (or light candles) and let the warm water soothe your worries away.
  • Pamper yourself at home
    Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Whip out the face mask you’ve been dying to use (or make your own), put some coconut oil in your hair, sip on some wine and just relax.
  • Watch your favorite show
    Binge watch the Netflix show you’ve been meaning to watch but haven’t had time to. (As a self-proclaimed Netflix queen, this is my go-to!)
  • Get a massage
    Check out Groupon for deals on massages in your area. Nothing like an hour-long massage to help you de-stress.
  • Get outside
    Sometimes taking a breath of fresh air is what we need to clear our heads.
  • Start a gratitude list
    Every night before you go to sleep, write down one thing that happened that you are grateful for. This will help refocus your thoughts on the small things that bring you joy, even when you don’t realize it.

Self-care is a fundamental piece to living a healthier life. Forming self-care habits helps us feel centered and refreshed when we need it the most.

Taking care of ourselves helps us reconnect with who we are and will produce positive vibes in all areas of our lives.

Remember to download the checklist before you go!

Now over to you…what’s your favorite way to practice self-care?


A Serene Pursuit was nominated for The Liebster Award

I’m so excited to announce that my blog was nominated for The Liebster Award!

I want to thank Hannah from Soft Skills Tips and Tricks for nominating me. Check out her blog!

The Liebster Award celebrates new blogs and is super cool because it’s an award passed on from one new blogger to another. It’s like a never-ending chain! The Liebster Award started in 2011 and in German Liebster means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. I’m so thrilled to be part of a blogging community that empowers new bloggers.

Here are my answers to the questions from Hannah’s nomination:

Why did you start blogging?
I started blogging because I was looking for something that fueled my passions. I’m passionate about healthy living and taking care of your mind, body and soul. I also always loved to write so I said why the heck not?! I love being able to create helpful content and connect with like-minded individuals in the health and wellness industry.

Morning, noon or night? (When it comes to writing your blog posts)
Whenever I have some free time! It’s usually at night or during the day on the weekends.

How often do you post a new blog?
I try to post a new blog every week. I’ve been posting on Tuesdays or Wednesday recently.

Why did you choose your niche?
I was always athletic and enjoyed going the gym, but as I got older I realized how important it is to give your body the nutrients it needs. The crap that I was eating was literally making me feel like crap. I went through a bit of a reality check with a health scare, and I knew then that I needed to make a change and take better care of my body from the inside out. I also realized that my mental wellness is just as important as my physical wellness. I’ve been fascinated ever since with learning about everything wellness to live a healthier and happier life.

When did you discover that you liked writing?
I think it was 10th grade in high school. One semester, I had an English and a History paper due the same week. I remember that both my teachers praised me for exceeding their expectations with my great writing skills. With a little encouragement, I realized that not only was I a good writer, but that I enjoyed to write. English had always been my best subject, so everything started to make sense! Of course, writing a blog for something that I’m passionate about is way more fun than writing papers for school. 😉

Drum roll please…I now nominate the following blogs for the Liebster Award:

  1. The Places The Faces
  2. Marching with Peonies and Passports
  3. Super Loud Mouth
  4. Surface Nomads
  5. Mommy Grace Blog

A few tips for the nominees:

  • Write about something that you’re really passionate about. Your readers will better relate to you this way.
  • Connect with other bloggers in your niche. Networking is super important in blogging!
  • Keep going! Blogging can be a lot of work but with a lot of grit and determination it’ll be worth it.

My questions for the nominees are:

  • What inspired you to start your blog?
  • Why did you pick your niche?
  • If you were an animal, which one would you be and why?
  • What would be a perfect day for you?
  • What do you do on your free time (besides blogging)?

To accept your nomination:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you (and link them) on a post in your blog.
  • Answer the questions asked by the blogger who nominated you.
  • Nominate 5-11 other new bloggers (blogging for less than 2 years and having less than 100 subscribers).
  • Create new questions for the nominees to answer and give them a few tips.
  • Notify all nominees via social media.

Can’t wait to read your posts! Happy blogging!


Gym Anxiety: How to Overcome it & Work Out With Confidence

When I started to go to the gym consistently after college, my gym anxiety was REAL. I avoided the “bro area” at all costs and managed to hide behind any exercise machine that wasn’t right smack in the middle of wandering eyes.

Going to the gym alone was a whole new monster for me. Despite my severe lack of confidence, I was determined to not let my gym anxiety and fear of going to the gym alone hold me back from my goals.

Scared of going to the gym alone? These are my tips to help you overcome gym anxiety and work out with confidence.

I’m the first to admit that going to the gym alone can be very overwhelming, especially when you are just starting your fitness journey.

I consider myself an introvert so even though I hate to admit it, even after almost two years of going to the gym, I STILL have some sort of gym anxiety.

But I’ve come a long way and I want to share with you what has helped me overcome my gym anxiety and shake off the intimidation to work out with confidence.


  • Know your plan of action

I think one of the major reasons we have gym anxiety is because a lot of the time we struggle with where to start.

At the beginning of my fitness journey, I made sure to Google every exercise on my workout plan before I went to the gym so I could know how to properly execute it.

There’s nothing worse than getting to the gym and not knowing what to do next so this helped me out a lot. We all start somewhere so remember there’s nothing wrong in looking for outside resources for guidance.

Now that I’m more familiar with exercises and proper form, before I go to the gym I plan and write down my workout in the Notes app on my iPhone. This helps me go in with a plan and get out as efficiently as possible.

If you’re just starting out, Google will be your savior. You will not only find the proper form to do an exercise, but you will also find an endless amount of beginner workouts already planned out for you.

As you progress, you can tailor the workouts to exercises that you prefer and love.


  • Find your gym tribe

When I first joined the gym, I was talked into personal training by one of the employees. I didn’t have the cash flow to afford it, but I knew I needed some kind of direction if I wanted to be successful.

After my experience, I 100% recommend getting a trainer for at least a couple of months if you’re just starting out. With your health goals in mind, they will be able to guide you in the right direction and set a solid foundation from where you can only go up.

I had a trainer for about 2 months with 2 sessions per month and I found it extremely helpful. Heck, I even still have some of the old workouts he used to make for me!

Even though I only saw him twice a month, all my workouts for each week were already planned for me which was super easy for me to follow and made it 100 times less overwhelming!

Pro tip: Most gym’s run personal training session specials all the time! If you’re tight on cash, subscribe to their mailing list or follow them on social media to stay in the know of their upcoming discounts.

If you can’t afford personal training, take group classes! Being surrounded by others will help your gym anxiety by staying motivated, getting work out ideas and having fun while doing it.

The best part about it is that you don’t have to worry about anything else but showing up.


  • Focus on you

This is an obvious one but one that we are all guilty of not doing. Working out is as much a physical thing as it is a mental thing.

When I’m not mentally there, my workouts suffer. I get distracted by what other people are doing or I’m self-conscious of people looking at me.

But it’s so important to pull yourself back from that and recognize that you’re taking this time out of your day FOR YOU. Not for anybody else.

So focus on your form, connect your mind to the right muscles, get a little lower, lift a little heavier, and completely connect your mind with your body.

You will see how much more focused you are and what a difference it makes in your work outs.


  • Wear a hat

You know that awkward eye contact at the gym? Yeah, I hate it too.

That’s why this is probably my favorite tactic. Up until recently, I never wore hats to the gym (even though I wanted to) because 1. I felt like people would look at me funny for wearing a hat indoors and 2. I felt like no girl wore a hat to the gym.

One day I said screw it and I fell in love!

Wearing a hat makes it so much easier to not make awkward make eye contact with people. It helps me get into my zone and focus on me and my workout.

After I started wearing a hat, I realized how many other girls actually wear one. Try it out and let me know how you like it 😉


  • Go during non-peak hours

I still HATE a crowded gym. I love going to the gym on a Saturday afternoon because there’s no one there!

That not only means fewer people to intimidate you but also fewer people to take up equipment!

I find that most gyms are usually packed M-THs between 5 p.m. – 8 p.m., and empty in the early morning hours (I’m talking 6 a.m.) and on weekend afternoons and evenings.

Pro tip: if you Google your gym, they will usually have popular hours listed underneath their location!


  • Make a killer playlist

One thing that helps me get in the zone is a killer playlist. I usually use Pandora or Spotify but if the Wi-Fi isn’t working (limited data probs) I always make sure to have fresh music on my iTunes for backup.

I can’t risk listening to something that I don’t enjoy while working out. Without my playlists my workouts would not be the same.

Music keeps me focused, pumped and ready for the next set.


  • Bring a buddy

Whether you’re a gym newbie or a seasoned vet, there’s just something about having a friend there with you that makes you feel a whole lot more confident.

Many of us are scared to go the gym alone when we first start out and that is completely okay. I feel so much better when I have somebody else there with me to at least walk around with.

Having some moral support there is extremely helpful in getting you to feel comfortable in the gym.


Gym anxiety is a real thing. Gym intimidation is a real thing. We all feel self-conscious and nervous when we’re doing things out of our comfort zone.

But remember, getting outside of your comfort zone is when the magic happens!

Do your research, go prepared, focus on you, and own the gym with confidence. Overtime, you will get stronger (physically & mentally) and your worry that people are judging you will diminish tremendously.

You go to the gym to better yourself and live a more health-conscious life, so don’t let your fear of judgment or embarrassment stop you from reaching your goals.

Now over to you…How do you overcome gym anxiety and intimidation?


Good Nutrition: Foods To Limit

Changing your lifelong eating habits can be a real challenge. I know the struggle all too well.

It doesn’t make it easier when society worships unhealthy foods, or when these foods are genetically modified to get us to crave them in a very unhealthy way.

For good nutrition, cut back on refined sugar

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE food more than the next person. Even the not-so-healthy kind #foodieforlife.

Once I realized that my health issues were taking over my life, I took a step back and educated myself on what was in the foods that I was eating and how it was affecting my body. Doing my own research and learning about the importance of good nutrition motivated me to make a lifestyle change.

While I still enjoy the “unhealthy” foods occasionally, when I’m trying to decide what to eat I try to focus on what’s going to help me feel my best.

There are many foods out there that are categorized as inherently unhealthy like fast food, but I want to talk about foods that are not so obviously unhealthy.


• Refined grains

Examples: White bread, white pasta, white rice, anything made with white flour

YES, I know what you’re thinking – many of these foods were my BFFs once upon a time too. The Hispanic in me cringes at the sight of white rice making the list!

But did you know that refined grains are low in essential nutrients and cause your blood sugar to spike? Like all of the foods on this list, they are stripped of their vitamins and minerals to increase their shelf life. Essentially, refined grains are empty calories with no nutritional value.

Alternatives: Whole wheat, sprouted, and Ezequiel bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa


• Refined sugars

Examples: fruit juices, cookies, cereal, syrup, flavored yogurt

For good nutrition. cut out refined grains, refined sugars and overly processed foods

I hate to admit but I have the biggest sweet tooth EVER. I’ve met people that don’t like sweets and I’m so shocked that that can even be possible!

If you are like me, try to cut down on refined sugar slowly. Refined sugars are natural sugars but modified and processed, and offer no nutritional value.

Did you know that the average American takes in 22 teaspoons of sugar daily – more than the three times the suggested amount by American Heart Association?

The examples I gave above are foods filled with refined sugars, but refined sugar can also be one of the hardest foods to avoid because it tends to hide in common foods.

Check out Dr. Axe’s list on great alternatives for the refined sugar ingredient in your food.


• Overly processed foods

Examples: packaged meats (ham, hotdogs, sausages, etc.), canned meats, frozen dinners, packaged baked goods

I’ve gotten into the habit of looking at the ingredient list on the back of foods and sometimes I’m like whatttt? How can one thing have so many ingredients that I don’t even recognize?

Overly processed foods are loaded with artificial chemicals to help with preservation. I don’t know about you but I want to limit the chemicals in my body NOT increase them. Generally, my rule of thumb is the less ingredients the better. Always check the ingredient list!

Alternatives: chicken, turkey fillets, eggs, beans, hummus


Most of these unhealthy foods are quick and easy. I’m all for quick and easy but I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) the importance of good nutrition by recognizing that my body needs the nutrients eating whole and real foods provide.

If that means doing a little extra work to give my body what it needs to stay healthy, then I’ll gladly do what needs to be done.

Of course, I indulge occasionally (I’m only human) but I remind myself that being healthy is not about being 100% perfect. I don’t try to be perfect! If I tried to be perfect, that would be in itself detrimental to my wellness.

I try to eat as healthy as possible most of time because it makes me feel great and I know that I’m giving my body the nutrients it needs to thrive.

So next time you’re making your grocery list or eating out, try to be more conscious of what you’re putting in your body so you can take control of your health one small step at a time.

What other unhealthy foods do you limit to get your body feeling great?

This website is written for informational purposes only. The views and opinions expressed on this site are my own. Nutrition advice should be customized and my advice may not be right for you. Please speak to a medical professional before making any changes to your diet.