Taking CHAARG: Staying fit while making friends

February 24, 2016

It’s not just a group, it’s a lifestyle. It’s not just working out, it’s taking CHAARG.



Meet CHAARG, a motivated group of women maintaining fitness and friendships through pumped-up weekly exercise.


CHAARG stands for Changing Health, Attitudes and Actions to Recreate Girls. The group focuses on fitness and living a healthy life, while also teaching members to live a happy lifestyle.


The organization is centered on women meeting semi-weekly to work out in a community of other women. They do yoga, kickboxing, Zumba and even CrossFit, but they all say CHAARG is much more than just working out — it’s a community.


“I realized during my first semester of CHAARG that CHAARG is way more than an organization,” said Brooke Salazar. “CHAARG is a community of amazing women who not only share a love for fitness but also love each other, radiate positivity and continually lift each other up.”


Salazar is UT’s CHAARG ambassador and joined the organization at a time when she was recovering from a back injury. She said with the help and support from the women she met, she was able to perform workouts she never thought she would be able to complete.


“This group of girls not only showed how to pursue a positive fitness lifestyle, but they showed me that every girl has their own story along with their own unique fitness journey and how to embrace that,” Salazar said. “My passion is helping other girls through the same struggles I have been through whether it be body image, physical injury or finding a workout they like. Nothing makes me happier than knowing I can have a positive impact on those around me.”


Identifying herself as a “CHAARGie,” Elaine Gray, a second-year nursing student, said participating in CHAARG has directly influenced her health, but indirectly keeps up her spirits.


“I am motivated daily by my fellow CHAARGies,” Gray said. “We all just want the best for each other and want to see each other achieve. We’re a group of girls who are passionate about loving each other and raising each other up instead of tearing each other down like society does to women daily. We are big on self-love.”


Gray said that in today’s society, too many women are focused on looking the “prettiest” or the “hottest.”


“I feel like girls see other girls as their enemies,” Gray said.


To Gray, CHAARG is the opposite of that sentiment, with a focus on teaming up and working out together, not about competing.


“CHAARG works to make girls feel more confident in themselves and to appreciate their bodies,” said Maggie Leibold, a second-year biology major.


Leibold said there is a lot more to working out than just running on the elliptical, but many women are too intimidated to try anything else.


“Too many girls are timid when in the gym because of the huge guys lifting an insane amount of weights,” Leibold said. “Before joining CHAARG, the thought of going to the Rec Center alone was terrifying … If I ever get timid and feel like the weakling in the gym, I remind myself of what my body is capable of and how strong I truly am.”


Gray and Leibold said CHAARG shows women that there are tons of ways to work out, and that they don’t have to do it alone.


Students like Bria Ligibel make it a priority to stay fit while managing schoolwork. She’s been a devout CHAARGie since she found out about the group.


“CHAARG is an amazing, inspiring and motivating workout group for girls on campus,” Ligibel said. “I wanted to meet some new girls who had a passion for fitness just like me … CHAARG has really helped me do that.”


Unlike Ligibel, Leibold said she was hesitant to join the group initially.


“I was worried it would just be a bunch of girls that are insanely fit and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to match their standards, but I couldn’t have been more wrong,” Leibold said. “That is the complete opposite of what CHAARG is about. It focuses on loving yourself for who you are.”


Working out together bonds these women together in many ways, Ligibel said. “These girls become your best friends and your support system.”


Each Wednesday, the women meet for a large group workout such as yoga or Zumba, among others. Along with these large groups, each girl joins a small group that meets once a week. The small groups work out together in fun ways, go out to eat or hang out and bond. Each small group has an executive member to guide and mentor the group.


“Although it’s awesome to become so close with a smaller group of girls, Wednesday events are great because they give you a chance to branch out from your small group and get to know other CHAARGies and exec members,” Leibold said.


The group has taken hold across the country as well. There are 29 active chapters of CHAARG in the U.S. CHAARGies are encouraged to use Instagram to document their journey in CHAARG and connect with other members around the country to motivate each other with their experiences.


Regular CHAARG events like POUND, Gray and Ligibel’s favorite workout, aims to get girls excited about exercising.


“It’s a dancing class with drumsticks,” Ligibel said. “You do Zumba-like moves and pound the drumsticks on the ground. It sounds really cool when there’s a whole group doing it.”


These types of workouts are where Leibold said she has met some of her very best friends.


“There will be girls I’ve never spoken to before, but if we have seen each other either at the main events or from the Facebook page, it’s like we’ve been friends for years. CHAARG is such a welcoming group and everyone is there for each other no matter what,” she said.


Gray said with the support she gets from CHAARG, she truly believes she can do anything she puts her mind to.


“It’s not about being super skinny and toned; it’s about being the healthiest version of you that you can be,” Leibold said. “If a workout is a struggle, there is a good chance most of the other girls are struggling with you. It is a judgment-free group and we all just have so much fun while sweating our butts off.”

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