The University of Maryland chapter of CHAARG, an all-female exercise club, encourages women to learn more about fitness and live a healthier lifestyle. The organization is open to any female-identifying student at UMD who is looking for a supportive, comfortable environment to exercise in.
UMD CHAARG typically participates in one organized group workout each week. They bring in professional instructors from the area to teach a class. The group aims to try all different kinds of activities that they typically wouldn’t do on their own. Some workouts are high-intensity and advanced, such as HIIT workouts and lifting, while others are more laid-back, such as dance or yoga.
CHAARG, which stands for Changing Health Attitudes and Actions to Recreate Girls, is a nationwide organization that “aims to ignite a passion for movement in college women,” according to the CHAARG website.
Sophomore Meghan Hnilo, a cell biology and genetics major, joined CHAARG this year after being recruited by one of her friends in the club. “We’ve had self-defense classes, yoga classes,” Hnilo explains, “just a bunch of random stuff, we really get a variety.”
In addition to these weekly workouts, the club also splits into small groups of around six people who get together once a week for an activity. Small group activities range from peer-led workouts to coffee-and-study sessions.
Junior elementary education major Lynsey Hildebrand serves as the VP of membership for UMD CHAARG. “Both the small groups and the big classes are just a safe space to connect with girls on a deeper level,” Hildebrand says, “but with the small groups it’s even more intimate.”
Fitness is traditionally a very male-dominated interest, which makes many women hesitant to go to the gym or try new workouts.
“I think CHAARG is a great way to get over that fear [of the gym,]” says Hildebrand, “because you’re never alone, there’s always at least one other girl with you.”
CHAARG empowers young women to get into fitness in a supportive, all-female environment. In a society that seems to value exercise mainly for body-image reasons, the group encourages girls to try new things, have fun and feel comfortable in their bodies.
Annie Gorman, a senior public health sciences major, is the Ambassador for CHAARG at UMD.
“[CHAARG] really encourages girls and women to have a healthy relationship with exercise,” Gorman says. “We do it to feel good and empower ourselves.”
CHAARG is meant to be enjoyable; nobody is required to be at every meeting and workout. Members participate when they want to and are encouraged to put their academics first.
In addition to weekly workouts, CHAARG hosts many fun social events, such as painting, friendship bracelet making, baking and more.
“It makes me feel like I have a sense of community at UMD,” says Hnilo, “it’s just a welcoming environment going in, which I think is the best part of it.”
CHAARG membership costs $50 per semester, which covers each workout class, small group activity and all social events.