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CHAARG sparks interest at UNC, promotes body positivity and empowerment through exercise


Photo courtesy of Leah Resler.

Changing Health, Attitudes + Actions To Recreate Girls is a fitness community that aims to empower women by promoting body positivity and encouraging them to explore a variety of physical activities.

The organization has over 115 chapters at universities across the country. UNC’s chapter of CHAARG was established in 2019 and now has about 150 to 200 members. 

The nationwide organization was originally founded in 2012 by ex-competitive swimmer Elisabeth Tavierne at Ohio State University. Tavierne realized that many women felt intimidated by male-dominated fitness spaces and hoped to show them that fitness should be fun.

At UNC, Grace Lena is CHAARG's vice president of membership. 

She said she spent the first six months of her fitness journey in the women’s only section of her gym because she was uncomfortable with male-dominated weightlifting spaces. 

She is a part of UNC weightlifting organization Carolina Barbell but feels most comfortable at CHAARG.

“CHAARG just spoke a lot more to me, because it does give you the opportunity to work out with just women in classes together,” Lena said. “It's a very motivating space, so you don't really ever feel uncomfortable.”

Leah Resler, the club's ambassador, explained that during recruitment, the group emphasizes that participants do not need to be athletic or try out to join, but is open to everyone.

“I think just having this community has been really good for me, at UNC, to have been supported by girls that are passionate about their health and just want to treat their body as best as they can,” Resler said.

The group does a variety of workouts, from yoga to weightlifting – allowing participants to try new things and find something they love. However, all of CHAARG’s events are optional and there are no penalties for missing workouts, socials or small groups. 

According to Resler, the group is hosted by workout studios in the area including Eat The Frog Fitness and Orangetheory. They also do workouts on campus at Hooker Fields.

“I would definitely say to join even if you're not super into fitness or lifting because there are so many different workouts,” Lena said. “We do dance-based workouts, we do spin-based, yoga-based and we also hold small groups where you just get to have bonding time and get to meet new girls that are in Chapel Hill, where we don't always work out.”

 CHAARG also hosts three to four socials a year. According to Emma Neal, the club's treasurer, the goal of the socials is to help make a large organization like CHAARG feel a little bit smaller.

Neal said the socials she’s planning for this semester incorporate local businesses like The Purple Bowl and Maple View Farm.

“I was really just trying to find ways to incorporate local businesses in the Chapel Hill area, to really, not only get these freshmen off of campus, but to really boost the local economy as well,” she said.

Neal said the group is planning a workshop focused on building confidence and eating disorder awareness that will take place in mid-September. 

She said she is hoping to have people from the UNC Department of Psychiatry's Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders speak at the workshop. 

“I personally know a lot of my friends were too scared to join CHAARG, because they thought that their body wasn't worthy, or that they weren't athletic enough, or they didn't fit in and that's just totally not our mission and we really want to bring awareness to the fact that it's a safe, comfortable space for everyone," event coordinator Kendal Diorio said. 

Lena said the club is trying to improve its diversity this year and expand its recruitment beyond straight white women to include any and all female-identifying or nonbinary students.

"We’re working very, very hard this year, to be much more accepting on a DEI level," Neal said. "Last year, we did not have very much diversity in our club."

Neal said the club is working to incorporate more people of color- and female-led workouts, as well as coordinating workouts with black-owned businesses.

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Students interested in joining CHAARG can visit its website or reach out via email or social media. Membership costs $50 per semester and is open to undergraduate and graduate students.