Iowa State in CHAARG: Where fitness meets community


Betsy Marlow

ISU CHAARG is a female-focused organization on health and fitness that meets weekly on Wednesdays.

Editor’s Note: Story has been updated to reflect membership price

CHAARG, a health and fitness community at over 115 college campuses, aims to help students embrace femininity and feel comfortable in the gym by fostering a supportive and empowering environment.

At Iowa State, you can find CHAARG members participating in weekly workouts Wednesday evenings, ranging anywhere from yoga and Pilates to self-defense classes. There are also small group socials held once a month for members to get together outside the gym. 

While CHAARG is a female-focused organization, Betsy Marlow, a senior in kinesiology and health and CHAARG’s current ambassador, emphasized the club’s prioritization of inclusivity.

Membership for the spring semester costs $47, according to the organization’s website.

“It truly is for anybody, any person,” Marlow said. “We try as much as we can to focus on diversity and inclusion.”

Marlow said the main purpose of CHAARG is to help students find their preferred form of movement in a supportive and welcoming environment. 

CHAARG’s chapter at Iowa State was founded in 2019, with less than a full year of establishment before the pandemic moved students online.

“My freshman year, every single workout was virtual, which honestly makes me very proud of how much we’ve grown since then,” Marlow said.

Alyssa Laroque, a senior in hospitality management, joined CHAARG as a freshman in 2019 after one of the girls on her dorm floor initiated a group outing to one of the free workouts on campus.

Members of CHAARG attend a fitness class. (Betsy Marlow)

“[It was] just for fun to get out of the dorm, and it was our first week knowing each other,” Laroque said. “We were all trying to get to know one another. Going to a free workout made it easier to get to know them and find something to do.”

Laroque plans each week’s workout in her role as the group event coordinator on the CHAARG executive committee.

These plans are made far in advance, with strategic placement of workouts based on estimated participation and collaboration with local fitness studios. 

Members of CHAARG are able to take advantage of the wide array of fitness classes offered at State Gym, with groups participating in activities such as kickboxing, stretching and dance. 

“I think I’ve done every single State Gym class,” Laroque said. “Because of how we are set up, our club volunteers to work with studios.”

A smaller challenge that faces CHAARG members at Iowa State is finding a variety of fitness studios and group exercise options within proximity to campus.

“It’s different for us being in Ames, where there aren’t as many fitness studios,” Marlow said.

Since CHAARG is a national organization, some chapters are located in cities with a wider array of workout opportunities. 

CHAARG chapters are appointed a Chapter Leader Consultant (CLC) who serves as a liaison between state and national organizations. 

“Our CLC didn’t realize we drive up to an hour away to do workouts,” Laroque said. 

Additionally, the majority of fitness studios closest to campus do not necessarily offer the most favorable workout options for students. 

“What’s really popular here isn’t what everyone likes,” Marlow said, referring to the dominance of CrossFit training studios and free weight gyms in Ames. 

CHAARG at Iowa State is known nationally for being a close-knit, friendly group, according to Marlow.

“[And] that’s truly what it feels like,” Laroque said. “I have lifelong friends that I would have never met if it weren’t for CHAARG.” 

Paige McDonald, a junior studying finance and business analytics, said she finally feels comfortable at the gym after joining CHAARG. 

“I’ll be at the gym, and I’ll see other people in CHAARG, and it just makes the whole experience better,” McDonald said. 

McDonald grew up in an active family and joined CHAARG to continue to stay active in college. As a freshman living off campus, she decided to sign up for a class through the organization’s website. 

“I loved it,” McDonald said. “Now I’m hooked, and I go all the time.”

To learn more about CHAARG at Iowa State, visit their Instagram or their website