“I can get as sweaty and go as hardcore as I want to and not have to worry about how I look or what I’m doing.”
Sounds appealing? Senior Emma Spofford was describing a steadily growing group of women that is proving to Belmont University college women can be well-rounded and motivated athletes while still building community and having fun. You might find them practicing pilates, doing CrossFit, rock climbing, running 5Ks or even pole dancing.
The Belmont chapter of CHAARG, a national organization whose acronym stands for Changing Health Attitudes and Actions to Recreate Girls, has more than doubled in size since last semester and will provide an exciting variety of exercise opportunities for members over the coming season.
Belmont CHAARG opened its chapter during the spring of 2016 in an effort to change stereotypes about women’s fitness. At the time, there were 29 chapters of CHAARG nationally and 78 members on Belmont’s campus.
This semester, Belmont CHAARG is now one of 38 chapters and has 182 members.
CHAARG’s catchphrase is “liberating girls from the elliptical,” but Maren Johnson, Belmont’s chapter president, said its goals are really much broader. They want to show college women that fitness can be an exciting, diverse and social pursuit.
“It’s a great way to get girls to meet each other and stay healthy and hopefully find their love for fitness,” Johnson said.
Every Tuesday evening they host a “Studio Spotlight,” a group fitness class provided by different studios around Nashville hosted either in Belmont’s Fitness and Recreation Center or at the studio itself. This semester, these will include self-defense fitness with EmPower Wellness, Jazzercise at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church and two POUND sessions, workouts inspired by the “sweat-dripping fun of playing the drums.”
In addition, all CHAARG members exercise weekly with a small group. Executive members lead a 45-minute workout, either body-weight, something cardio or a dumbbell workout, Johnson said.
“Having it be all girls makes everybody feel more comfortable with whatever fitness level you’re at,” said Spofford.
The diversity of fitness experiences in addition to the community-building structure of CHAARG has drawn girls from every corner of Belmont’s student body. Members range from student athletes to the athletically challenged.
“We have marathon runners, we have Olympic lifters, we have yogis – literally every single thing,” Johnson said.
This includes those who are entirely new to exercising.
“We definitely have girls who came up to us and said, ‘We have never done a workout before; can we still join?’ And we’re like, ‘Yes, 100 percent,’” said Johnson.
“You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic,” said Christina Sorentino, the vice president of membership. CHAARG is about encouraging healthy, balanced lifestyles so women can thrive in their college experience. It hosts socials and will even organize a formal for their members this semester. “The girls try not to take themselves too seriously: while they emphasize nutrition, they also bake cookies for their socials,” said Sorentino.
This social support helps women stay motivated to keep off the Freshman 15, said Sorentino. CHAARG provides an online nutrition blog and exposes its members to a variety of workout styles so they can find one they’re passionate about. The hope is they “find something that they enjoy and keep doing when they graduate to keep that healthy lifestyle going on.”
Joining CHAARG is very simple: email firstname.lastname@example.org and they’ll send you a link to register and pay $45 for the semester.
“And that’s it. Everyone is included,” said Johnson.
This article was written by James Mixon. Photo courtesy of CHAARG’s Facebook page.