CHAARG in the Age of #Fitspiration

How one organization on campus is promoting girl power and encouraging a healthy lifestyle in times of widespread negative self image.


Hayley Boucher says CHAARG is more than just an Instagram community, it’s a completely safe space for all members, at each and every event. We are a judge free zone. (Photo courtesy of Kayla Pretzer)

By Kristen Lauck, Social Media & Special Editions Editor

“A student organization on Akron’s campus that promotes health and wellness, friendship and is comprised of empowered girls? Sign me up!”

This was exactly my thought process when I decided to join CHAARG at The University of Akron, which stands for Changing Health, Attitudes and Actions to Recreate Girls. But after joining, I realized it was more than workouts and fun events.

CHAARG is a nationwide community of girls who inspire each other to be the best version of themselves.

According to The Washington Post, CHAARG was started by former Ohio State student-athlete Elisabeth Tavierne in 2012 and is now a nationwide student organization with chapters at 56 universities.

The organization can be compared to a fitness-focused sorority and “aims to ignite a passion in college-aged girls for health and fitness,” according to its website.

Each week, members have the opportunity to try a new workout at Studio Spotlights, which are held either on campus or locally, and feature a nearby studio. These workouts encourage members to try new ways to stay active through classes like acro-yoga, CrossFit, or POUND.

Members enjoying a workout together, specifically a Zumba workout, during a Studio Spotlight. (Photo courtesy of Kayla Pretzer)

Additionally, CHAARG offers Small Groups that meet weekly with a few members to build friendships while fitting a workout into busy school schedules.

Once a week, CHAARG offers members various opportunities to try new and different workouts, such as POUND. (Photo courtesy of Kayla Pretzer)

Each chapter of CHAARG is lead by a student ambassador who works with an executive team to plan the community building events.

Hayley Boucher is the current ambassador at UA. Boucher and her executive team work together to promote health and fitness by organizing not only weekly workout classes but also activities like movie night socials and holiday parties.

From my time in CHAARG, I feel that these help to foster a sense of community, a place where every girl feels like they belong. This is important for college-aged girls, who can often feel marginalized by images they see in the media.

Community focused and girl-powered, CHAARG helps spread positivity to girls in a time when social media can affect body image and confidence issues even though its purpose is to keep people connected like never before.

Scroll through any social media platform and it won’t take long to come across #fitspiration photos that feature seemingly perfect bodies, successful before and after photos, or gym selfies.

#Fitspiration, a combination of the words ‘fitness’ and ‘inspiration’, is a popular hashtag on Instagram that was started to encourage users to stay active and healthy. But I think it has become especially dangerous to girls who compare themselves to these unrealistic #fitspiration images and in turn, feel less than worthy.

Fitness content could be a likely contributor to negative self-image because it often idolizes a flawless physical appearance rather than personal health and well-being.

This is why I think CHAARG is so important. It’s a supportive and empowering community that welcomes every girl.

Boucher said, “CHAARG offers a unique community composed of girls here at Akron and across the nation who all root for each and every member to succeed and be the best version of themselves. One of my favorite parts about CHAARG is that it’s absolutely for everyone.”

Boucher goes on to say that CHAARG welcomes girls of every fitness level because it will not affect their experience in the organization.

“The last girl to finish the final lap? You bet the rest of us are cheering her on… CHAARG is such an incredibly uplifting organization,” Boucher said. “It really gives college-aged women a chance to be their best self and be supported in every way possible.”

To help combat the seemingly flawless post-workout photo that often leads to more jealousy than inspiration, “each member is encouraged to create a specific Instagram account to connect with CHAARG girls from around the country and at their own university,” Boucher said.

This is one example of how CHAARG hopes to change the image of fitness on social media: through a photo that shows the realistic side of post-workout appearance. (Photo courtesy of Hayley Boucher)

Boucher believes the purpose of these accounts is not to measure how popular a person can be on social media, but to fill others social media feeds with encouragement in different forms: such as food pictures, inspirational quotes, and more.

Although CHAARG is a workout based student organization, its main goal is to help girls enjoy living a healthy lifestyle.

Tavierne said on the website, “while CHAARG focuses a lot on fitness, living a healthy life is so much more than the physical aspect. I hope all of our members grow to embrace a healthy and happy lifestyle. I hope that they find a supportive and encouraging community and that they meet not only workout buddies but lifelong friends.”

UA’s chapter of CHAARG was founded in the 2015 fall semester and continues to grow. (Photo courtesy of Kayla Pretzer)