Find The Get-Happy Outdoor Workout to Complement Your Running Regimen

Mixing up how you sweat outside will help you run stronger—and longer.


There’s a reason so many runners liken their daily jog to therapy: Exercising outside can be a huge boon to your physical and mental health. As little as 10 minutes in natural spaces improved mood, focus, and physiological markers like blood pressure and heart rate in a 2020 study published in Frontiers in Psychology. Plus, people who went for a hike in nature pushed themselves harder, enjoyed the workout more, and felt less tired compared to those who walked on a treadmill indoors, research published in PLOS One found.

Sure, running is one of the easiest ways to prioritize getting outside on the reg (just lace up your shoes and head out the front door). However, incorporating outdoor activities such as cycling and HIIT circuits may make you a better runner according to recent research published in the Journal of Sports Science Medicine.

You will have to trade in your shoes for a pair that’s engineered to support your preferred method of cross training. If you’re not sure how to break a sweat outside without racking up the miles, take this quick and easy quiz. You’ll find out which outdoor activity best complements your regular run, plus the perfect Merrell shoes to pair with it.

Trail Running

OK, trail running isn’t a total pivot from your usual workout, but switching to dirt and vert every once in a while can make you a stronger runner and athlete. As you navigate rocks, roots, and other uncertain terrain, all the stabilizer muscles around your pelvis and in your ankles, knees, and feet have to work so much harder to keep you upright. And that strength translates onto the road, which makes you a more efficient and powerful runner. Thanks to durable shock absorption and plenty of grip, the Antora 2 will ensure you’ll never lose your footing, especially as you pick up the pace on the downhills.


Hiking mimics the motion of running without putting as much pressure on your joints. And it’s enough of a cardio challenge to keep developing your aerobic power, especially if you don’t shy away from hills. Speaking of hills: Inclines force you to engage your glutes, while your quads dominate the down slope. The stronger those muscles are, the more speed you’ll be able to tap into on the road. Go the distance in the hikers’ favorite Moab Speed, which is as traction-increasing and protective as it is lightweight and comfortable. With these on your feet, your stride will stay solid on even the gnarliest terrain.


Yes, walking! Many runners think of walking as merely a way to get from point A to be point B, but this low-intensity, low-impact activity builds your aerobic engine on active recovery days. And, according to research published in Emotion, you can reap even more positive emotions from your daily jaunt by turning it into an “awe walk”—simply make a conscious effort to look for new objects and sites, and take in the good vibes. Want to up the ante? To turn a stroll into a workout, walk at a brisk pace, between 2.5 and 4 miles per hour. Shoes like Merrell’s breathable and supportive Siren Edge 3 (featuring a foam midsole with softer foam zones that may reduce pronation) will help you maintain your momentum.


Cycling is another powerhouse outdoor cardio move. It increases blood flow to your calves, glutes, hamstrings, and quads—you know, those crucial running muscles—making it a great form of active recovery. Cruise around town wearing the Bravada. With a removable contoured insole, you can choose the level of support you want, and an air cushion in the heel adds stability. Plus, the shoe features Merrell’s stickiest outsole, giving you extra grip on and off the bike.

Outdoor Bootcamp

Every runner benefits from adding strength to their routine. In fact, strength training can improve running economy—or how efficiently you use energy—as well as sprint speed, according to a review in the Sports Medicine journal. Make the outdoors your playground, using benches for tricep dips and incline pushups; stairs or curbs for calf raises and step-ups; and the ground itself for any bodyweight exercises. The Moab Flight’s rubber outsole provides an extra dose of durability and grip on wet and dry surfaces, and the mesh lining helps your feet breathe.

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