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The Antelope

Hot Girl Walk: how a TikTok trend improved my headspace

Photo+by+Rachel+Ostdiek+%2F+Antelope+Staff
Photo by Rachel Ostdiek / Antelope Staff

ostdiekr@lopers.unk.edu

The crisp autumn breeze is beginning to sweep through campus and it’s finally bearable to spend more than five minutes outside again. As the leaves are turning and fall arrives, it also signifies a more overwhelming season in our classes. Bigger projects, more assignments, harder tests. In the whirlwind of college life, it’s easy to forget the simplest remedy for stress: walking. Beyond the glow of your computer screen lies a path to better mental health, and it’s right beneath your feet.

Maybe walking sounds mundane or maybe even boring, but I can assure you that setting aside thirty minutes of your day to go on a walk will drastically change your headspace. During the pandemic, many families, like mine, turned to walking as a pastime and  a way to get some exercise in and for a little bit of bonding. This shared experience even gave rise to a TikTok trend in January 2021, coined the “Hot Girl Walk”, to showcase the phenomenon of going on long walks to prioritize mental health. I continued this habit of going on walks multiple times a week well after social distancing was over and then fell back into my love of the “Hot Girl Walk” during my transition into college.

As a freshman at UNK last year, I found myself struggling with an abundance of free time—a luxury I hadn’t anticipated during my transition from high school to college. (In hindsight, I feel like all of that free time has gradually slipped away from me and I crave those open blocks of time now.) Back then, I sought ways to occupy my day, and I turned to exploring walking spots in my newfound home of Kearney. Although my life has become considerably busier, these locations now serve a different purpose. Instead of using walks to further clutter my schedule, I turn to these paths to regain moments of peace amid the chaos of college life. 

My absolute favorite place to walk is the Oldfather Trail at Cottonmill Park. It’s the closest thing you can get to a hike in the Great Plains, which is why I love it. Hiking is one of my favorite hobbies, and that certainly isn’t ideal when you live in Nebraska. This 2.2 mile loop is perfectly secluded on the east end of the park and takes about 40 minutes to complete. With many large trees, it’s especially stunning during the fall season, and the unpaved trail isn’t yet slick and muddy from the winter snow. Although I will bundle up any time of year to visit Cottonmill Park because it’s just that good, it’s the most enjoyable right now. 

Another must-visit for UNK students is the Kearney Canal Trail. This 9.4-mile trail spans all the way from Cottonmill Park to Yanney Park and cuts right through campus. While there are numerous entry and exit points along its course, starting here at UNK is convenient and a great way to quickly escape from your academic grind. Start your walk right next to University Residence North, and continue West as far as you please before returning. If you are up for a bigger challenge, you can take the 2.9 mile trail  all the way to Cottonmill Park. It’s a gorgeous path following the canal, and even bearable in the winter months since it’s paved.

As the autumn leaves turn and the academic pressures get larger, remember that a walk can be your refuge and a quick way to get a breath of fresh air. Whether you prefer the rustic charm of Cottonmill Park or the convenience of the Kearney Canal Trail, embracing the “Hot Girl Walk” can invigorate your college experience and prioritize your mental well-being.

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Rachel Ostdiek, Executive Editor
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