Last semester, Colleen Dyra, freshman elementary education major, would move her bean bag to the other side of her dorm room at Studebaker West Thursday nights at 6:30.
She would join Ball State’s CHAARG chapter Zoom meeting, where she and about 20 other women would spend an hour completing a POUND workout, dancing and working out their abs while holding green drumsticks — or, in Dyra’s case, pencils.
“Because it was virtual, I used pencils because I didn’t know what else to use,” Dyra said. “Even though I still got that good workout, it was funny because I didn’t have anything else to use … The POUND workout was pretty intense. Although I was really tired afterwards, it made me feel better about myself. I was like, ‘OK, I can do this even though this will tire me out. It’s really good for me … in the long run.’”
Ball State’s chapter of CHAARG — Changing Health, Attitudes and Actions to Recreate Girls — was founded in 2015 to liberate women from the elliptical and empower them through workouts such as Zumba, cardio hip-hop, pilates, yoga, meditation and SWERK — a workout where members dance and twerk to pop music by artists like Lizzo and Cardi B.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of CHAARG’s events have been virtual this school year. Since the beginning of the spring 2021 semester, the organization hosts once-a-month in-person workouts in the Student Center Ballroom. Members are distanced 6 feet apart and stand on taped Xs on the floor.
Interested in joining CHAARG?
Students can join CHAARG at any point in the semester. Visit Ball State's CHAARG chapter website to apply for a membership, which is $47 per semester. If students have additional questions, they can reach out to Ball State's CHAARG chapter at email@example.com or send a message to its Instagram.
Dyra joined CHAARG at the beginning of the fall 2020 semester after scrolling through Ball State’s Class of 2024 Facebook group and coming across Ball State’s CHAARG chapter Facebook page. Dyra played volleyball, basketball and softball and was a cheerleader in middle school, so keeping up a healthy fitness routine was important to her, she said.
Since joining, Dyra’s passion for fitness has increased along with her passion for empowering women around her. CHAARG members have Instagram accounts where they include “_inchaarg” in their username as a way to post updates about their fitness goals and successes. Members follow one another’s Instagram journals to check in with each other’s mental health and personal lives too.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic, CHAARG brought us a little bit closer together, even in a socially distant or virtual way,” Dyra said. “CHAARG has really helped us to make sure that we're OK — that we can take mental health days and think it's OK to do that.”
At least once a week, Dyra tries to do a mental health activity, such as having no screen-time, taking a nap, stretching, doing yoga or going for a run around campus. One of Dyra’s fitness goals is to run one mile a week. Her route begins at Studebaker West, where she then runs up to North Dining Hall, down to the Village and ends back at her residence hall.
“With CHAARG, I have girls that will give me really good advice like, ‘Don't put yourself down a lot’ and ‘Give yourself breaks,’” Dyra said. “When a lot of girls say that, it makes me think, ‘OK, I really need to listen to them and put into perspective what I need to do to accomplish my fitness and mental health goals. I should listen to them, even though I'm stressed at school. I need to take a break once in a while and maybe go on a run with them.’”
Junior social work major Elaina Kobitz said she joined CHAARG initially for its community aspect. Now, as Ball State’s CHAARG chapter ambassador and the liaison between Ball State’s chapter and CHAARG’s national team, Kobitz has fostered a passion for empowering women.
“I'm very much a girl’s girl — I love being surrounded by women,” Kobitz said. “I was super drawn in because CHAARG is intended to empower women. While I didn't join for the fitness aspect, I did want to push myself and not just sit in my room and gain the freshman 15.”
Being around a community of women has helped her also develop a love for group workouts. She used to dislike group workouts because she didn’t enjoy other people looking at her, but being in CHAARG made her realize no one is actually looking at her while she’s working out. Now, Kobitz works out individually or as part of a group at least three times a week.
“If you were to meet me in high school and ask me about my fitness routine, I would tell you there isn't one,” Kobitz said. “[At CHAARG], nobody is looked down upon if they are at a lower fitness level or a higher fitness level. We all try to cheer each other on and support each other during events … Even our instructors will shout out, ‘You're doing great’ and empower us to laugh, have fun during the workout and push each other more.”
Junior French major Grace Georgi said her perspective on fitness and mental health has changed since being a member of Ball State’s CHAARG chapter. Georgi initially joined CHAARG her sophomore year when members were passing out fruit snacks and information about the organization at the Scramble Light. Now, Georgi is Ball State’s CHAARG chapter secretary, where she takes attendance at events and keeps a report of active members.
Before joining, Georgi wasn’t passionate about fitness, she said, as she would only typically use an elliptical to work out. Being involved with CHAARG, she learned about other ways to be active that aren’t boring to her, she said. Georgi enjoys doing HIIT workouts, which are interval-based where she does movement exercises for 45 seconds and then rests for 15 seconds.
“You don't have to listen to a podcast to get you through,” Georgi said. “You can just be present in the moment with other people.”
One of Georgi’s first and favorite CHAARG memories was participating in a POUND workout led by POUND pro instructor Michelle Anderson.
“She is plus-sized, and I'm also bigger, so it was just nice to see someone who looked like me and who was arguably very, very in shape and kicking butt at that event,” Georgi said.
Because Georgi is a shy person, she said, she would typically stay in the back row at CHAARG’s workouts. But, she became friends with the other women in the back row, and every week after their workout, they would get dinner at Woodworth to talk and get to know one another.
When CHAARG started holding in-person workouts again, Georgi said, she had forgotten what it was like to be a part of a community. During CHAARG’s virtual weekly workouts, some members would choose to have their cameras off, and everyone but the instructor would have their microphones off.
Virtual workouts aren’t the end of the world, Georgi said, but she feels better connected to other members with in-person workouts because she can see who else is struggling like she is and she can get verbal reassurance from other members too.
While Ball State’s CHAARG chapter is targeted toward women, Georgi said, she and the executive team are working to change CHAARG’s language so everyone can feel welcomed to join its supportive and empowering community, no matter where they fall on the gender spectrum.
“Health doesn’t come at one size, and it’s very easy to think that,” Georgi said. “I definitely now focus more on body positivity. I always was, but now even more so because I know other members have felt the same way about their relationship with their body as I did before. I really just love what CHAARG has done, not only for me, but to also hear other members — what they think [of fitness] now versus what they did before.”
Contact Nicole Thomas with comments firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @nicolerthomas22.