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CHAARG challenges stereotypes, builds workout community for college women

The women stay to the right, and the men stay to the left- except for a few of those brave souls who dare test the gender boundaries.

Women flood the ellipticals as men prepare their fifth power set on the squat rack, the ratio of women to men seemingly skewed in the congested and heat-soaked gym.

“The stereotype is that women don’t want to sweat or lift weights when we go to the gym. The truth is, a lot of us do want to go squat, and we want to work on our weight lifting. Most of the time though, we’re scared of being called manly or gross because that’s the stereotype,” said Jacqueline Burnham, who has signed up to become a member of CHAARG.

A new program, CHAARG, Changing Health Attitudes and Actions to Recreate Girls, has officially become an organization at Belmont for women interested in defying these stereotypes.

With 29 current CHAARG chapters widespread throughout the United States, Belmont is one of the six new chapters added in the spring of 2016 because of Maren Johnson, CHAARG Belmont ambassador.

CHAARG is a community that encourages college-aged women to become the healthiest and best versions of themselves while providing opportunities for women of all shapes and sizes, said Sarah Clem, director of expansion at CHAARG.

“We help girls from all backgrounds and help them discover what their health journey means to them,” said Clem. “You could have just finished your third marathon or just beginning your fitness journey. It’s not a one size fits all thing.”

The CHAARG community partners with local studios offering an array of activities and workouts ranging from classes such as Zumba, Barre and CrossFit for members to participate in weekly.

“We want to show women that there are a variety of activities they can participate in. You will at least find one workout that you enjoy doing instead of sitting on the elliptical for 30 minutes,” said Clem.

Johnson first heard about CHAARG from director of Fitness and Recreation Jamie Zeller.

Johnson joined the CHAARG virtual chapter last spring. It provides an opportunity for women who don’t have CHAARG chapters on their campus to get involved.

“I was taken back by all the support that was there. It was an awesome community- basically 500 girls who don’t know each other who felt comfortable opening up and supporting each other’s goals,” said Johnson.

After her experience, Johnson sought out the application to bring CHAARG to Belmont as an official organization.

After an extensive interview process filled with questions, Skype sessions and a social media contest, CHAARG announced its expansion to Belmont University for the spring of 2016.

“Belmont has a small workout facility that does not fit our campus. It’s difficult for women to go and workout in the weight room and be confident lifting because it’s such a small area and it’s intimidating with men. CHAARG will provide a great opportunity for women at Belmont to feel more confident together, as a community,” said Johnson.

A membership fee of $45 per semester will include a group fitness class every Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m called Studio Spotlight.

Some group fitness classes arranged for next semester include Evolve fitness, Shakti Yoga, Cardio Barre, OnTheEnd CrossFit, HotBox, Freebird Yoga, OrangeTheory Fitness and Simply Balanced Pilates.

“I’m hoping to get some spinning, aerial yoga and pole dancing. I want to provide any type of fitness to give every member an opportunity,” said Johnson.

The members will be divided into one of seven small groups led by a selected Belmont executive team member. Each small group will meet once a week to promote personal relationships among its members.

The Belmont CHAARG chapter will host at least one social per month for its members. A community of empowerment, passion and motivation, CHAARG will help everyone’s fitness journey, said Johnson.

“CHAARG includes a specific time for girls to get together and workout. All of us get stressed and fitness normally takes a backseat, but when we have other girls who want to workout with us and encourage us to, it’s a total life-style change,” said Burnham.

For those interested in joining CHAARG, email for updates and information.

This article was written by Taylor Andrews.

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