You’ve finally found a fitness routine that feels great, body and mind. You’re staying consistent and seeing progress, whatever that means for you. Then it happens: Suddenly or slowly, you get hurt and have to spend some time on the sidelines.

If movement is a vital part of your life, injuries that take you away from it can be physically and mentally tough. Trust me, I know—I’m a recreational runner who’s dealt with everything from knee pain to stress fractures. The topic is such an important one to me that I cowrote a book (Rebound: Train Your Mind to Bounce Back Stronger from Sports Injuries) and cohost a podcast (The Injured Athletes Club) on it.

The emotional challenges of sports and fitness injuries—a shaken sense of identity, a loss of community, a disruption in your normal stress-coping mechanisms, and a fear of getting hurt again, among others—make the process of resuming your routine even more fraught and uncertain. But while every person and injury is different, there are some common principles to guide you back to play. Follow them, and you just might find yourself in a better spot than where you started.

1. Get official clearance to start back up again.

Even if you don’t think your injury is that serious, it’s a good idea to get some personalized advice on managing both your recovery and your return, Meghan Bishop, MD, an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon in New Jersey, tells SELF. This will help you determine an approximate timeline for recovery, as well as help you figure out what might have caused your injury in the first place—so you can both address underlying causes and ease back in safely, she says.

Your “hype squad” can include medical pros in a variety of fields, including sports medicine, physical therapy, personal training, sports dietetics, and mental health therapy, Amanda Katz, a certified personal trainer and running coach in New York City, tells SELF. These pros can offer individualized guidance on the types of movement you can and should be doing as you heal to promote recovery and prepare for your return to your main activity.

Exactly where to begin and how quickly to ramp back up depends on a wide variety of factors—the nature of your injury, how long you’ve been away, and how much stress you’re under, for instance. That’s one reason it’s super helpful to get individualized advice, rather than rely on generalized tips on social media, Katz says.

Of course, lots of people face barriers to accessing physical or mental health care—costs can be high, even with insurance, and quick appointments can be hard to come by. But investing as much time and cash as you can, even if it’s seeing a doctor or PT for an appointment or two, can prevent you from developing a bigger (and more expensive) problem later on, she says.

2. Track your pain…

Listening to your body can be tricky when you’re coming back from an injury. You might wonder: Is that niggle normal or a cry for help? “When you’re injured, your brain has gone into a protective mode,” certified mental performance consultant Carrie Jackson, my podcast cohost and book coauthor, tells SELF. “You’re often hyper-tuned into every sensation you feel in [that] part of your body.”