By Georgia Slater
For some, coming to college means gaining the inevitable freshman 15. For others, like those involved with CHAARG, a health and fitness initiative for college-aged girls, college is a great time to explore your passion and “find your fit.”
CHAARG, which stands for Changing Health Attitudes and Actions to Recreate Girls, is an initiative to liberate girls from the elliptical and to show them that fitness doesn’t have to be a chore, according to the CHAARG website. The CHAARG community has over 5,000 girls and is currently at 52 universities across the nation; however, the movement is destined to grow even more.
CHAARG, a national organization with a chapter on the UMD campus, has seven executive board members who work diligently to keep the club up and running. Despite the many CHAARG chapters, the community as a whole stays connected to motivate one another, according to ambassador sophomore criminology and operations management major Caitlyn Findley.
“We have what are called ‘CHAARG instagrams’ which are instagrams for CHAARG girls specifically for posting fitness pictures, cool recipes, motivation or anything else really…. You’ll post a fitness picture and some girl from Ohio State University for example will comment on your post and say something like ‘that’s awesome, keep it up,’ which is really motivating,” said Findley.
For senior kinesiology major Kelly Marshall, CHAARG was the perfect opportunity for her to meet new people and stay active while doing so.
“It can be super difficult to find and make time to go to the gym when you have a crazy school schedule, but I’ve met so many girls from CHAARG that motivate me to push myself to be fit,” said Marshall. “I think eating healthy is the hardest challenge especially on a college budget, but it helps having friends who live a similar lifestyle around.”
Junior psychology and communications major, Alison Venooker, describes CHAARG as being a “unique” all women organization where “a no judgment zone is emphasized to make everyone feel comfortable.”
Different events and workouts are held on campus each week. There are studio spotlights every Thursday, which include events such as yoga, cardio kickboxing, dance classes and ROTC workouts. There’s also health-related events as well such as healthy eating and body positivity seminars. Every member of CHAARG is also part of a small group, she added, which meets at a certain time each week to get together and do a workout or bonding activity.
“There’s a lot of negative stigma out there about girls who are too athletic or girls who lift weights being ‘manly’ and CHAARG aims to shut down that stigma,” said Marshall.
“I think all the members play a role in improving the club,” said Marshall. “Even if you’re only making an impact on one person, you’re still making a difference. If you can take the time to better yourself and at the same time, better someone else, you’re doing something great.”
“CHAARG a great motivator,” said Marshall. A lot of people don’t take the time to unwind and relax when the world gets really stressful, and CHAARG is a perfect reminder that it’s important to take a break and to “sweat it out.”
“[CHAARG] has helped me the most by helping me to improve my mental health,” said Findley. “While I don’t have the “flat stomach” or “toned legs” or whatever else people think is important, I’m strong and healthy. That’s what really matters and CHAARG has helped me realize that.”