it's complicated

When you’re in the 9-to-5 grind, it’s hard to summon any real motivation to exercise or be active when you finally get home. I was an avid runner turned cowardly couch potato after sustaining an injury and losing my way to cope with daily stress. What I had to remember is how much running made me feel free, and I could reclaim that feeling through action.

I’ve had a relationship with running for as long as I can remember. Like any relationship, though, it gets complicated as we get older. Here’s how I got off my butt and took back my passion for running.

I focused less on a set deadline or destination

You’re so busy, all of the time. Having to be somewhere by some pre-determined time is stressful because usually all of these deadlines and destinations are colliding.

Why do you run? What’s underneath the goals? What is beyond the destination? Running makes me feel free. I have the power to use my own two feet to take me somewhere. At any point, I could choose another destination. When I run, I enjoy the scenery and breathe deeply. If old routines hold you back, choose new destinations without set times. Run for the sake of running.

Related: Why You Should Run Your Next Race Without A GPS Watch

I realized I had nursed a deeper injury for too long

A few years ago, I suffered from a tear in a tendon and took my time getting it checked out. Upon occasion, I re-injure the affected area and end up feeling clumsy and stupid. Running injuries are discouraging, especially for those where it means their lifestyle or livelihood is at risk. Injuries sustained from running are very common, but they can wreak havoc on your routine—suddenly the way you cope with stress is taken away, along with a major part of how you live your life.

I had to ask: Why am I running away from running? In my case, I was extremely scared after my injury and was letting that fear rule my life. Physical therapists have discovered through the fear avoidance model that injuries can lead to psychological barriers. It has been proven that the expectation of pain can lead to the cycle of fear avoidance. These barriers, caused by pain and fear, can prevent recovery—and that’s exactly what happened with me. My advice for this part of the relationship is to get help. Any type of therapy, physical or otherwise, is the best way to start your healing journey.

My relationship with running had become complicated, and I was in serious denial. The truth was—I had a deeper injury to nurse. I blamed myself for taking away my most important element of self-care. I let myself sulk. The biggest push to get my butt up was this realization that my relationship with running was still there, and all I had to do was run too—maybe not like the lead in a romantic comedy chasing down a lover in an airport, but small steps would do.

Related: After 21 Half Marathons I FINALLY Loved My Body

I challenged myself

I had replaced my method of running to cope with life with half-hearted walks and excuses that I was just too tired and busy. Of course, it’s okay to want to let your mind zone out and not think about anything at all. The problem is that you get stuck in that mental fog, and you do the bare minimum to get through the day.

The routine and practice that came with my earlier discipline had vanished. Lethargy leaked into other areas of my life. Honestly, I felt like a zombie. So, I decided it was time to make a change. It was really hard at first. Things were different and my body had to readjust. I signed up for a 5K and went to work on training and developing a routine again. I tried changing the time of my runs and created fun, motivational playlists. Each day, I tried to think of something new I could try to push the relationship in the right direction.

And after some time and dedication, guess what happened? I rekindled my love for running! It was overwhelmingly refreshing and relieving to finally have that stability and freedom back in my life. I now train in the mornings and evenings, whenever it fits best in my schedule. It’s a beautiful, inspirational sight to watch the sun rise or see the fireflies make their rare appearances in the evening. A loose routine has been key for me, but routine is still important to developing discipline, again.

Do it and start with small steps

So, why are you running away from running? What’s your relationship to running? Like any relationship, it can get complicated at times—to muster up the courage and willpower to put on your sneakers on and simply run. It’s human to experience guilt, sadness and fear. The way you overcome it, though, is to get to the root of why you need running in your life, and start again.

Corinne Keating is a health and wellness writer and enthusiast. She loves a good run, a good book, and writing for her blog, Why So Well.