CSU spinoff Smart Fit Girls planning to expand

Chrissy Chard, left, and Kellie Walters

Just in time for those new year’s resolutions, a CSU spinoff that provides health and fitness coaching to girls is planning to expand.

Smart Fit Chicks was started by Chrissy Chard and Kellie Walters, who first met at CSU while earning their graduate degrees in the Department of Health and Exercise Science. Both were involved in the fitness world, and decided to start their own health coaching company by women, for women, with the mission of using research-proven techniques to empower others to create healthy lifestyles, in body and mind.

They were accepted into the Venture Accelerator Program through CSU’s College of Business in 2012, while Chard was earning her Ph.D. The VAP provided them access to mentors and resources to get Smart Fit Chicks and sister organization Smart Fit Girls off the ground. Through the VAP and Charge!, the University’s crowdfunding site, Chard and Walters raised enough money to start four Smart Fit Girls locations, primarily in Colorado and South Carolina.

Now they’re turning to crowdfunding again to support some new offerings.

Loving yourself

Chard, now a faculty member in the Department of Health and Exercise Science and the Colorado School of Public Health, says their services are not about hard-core dieting or succumbing to societal pressure to have a perfect body.

“Too often we’re focused on trying to change our bodies,” she said. “It’s great to set goals to improve your health, but what has to precede that is loving yourself. That’s when you can be successful, by believing in yourself first.”

This is what Smart Fit Girls aims to do. The program targets adolescent girls, empowering them to love themselves by embracing their own strength (both on the inside and the outside).

Chard said the new crowdfunding effort will end Dec. 31; she and Walters hope to raise $15,000 to support several additions and accommodate demand for their service.

“We’re realizing that we’re at the point where there are more people who want the program than we can serve,” she said.

New offerings

Plans for new programming include opening some Smart Fit Girls sessions to participants’ mothers, since many moms have expressed interest in learning how to communicate with their daughters about body image. Chard said she and Walters also want to create a “booster program” for girls who have already completed Smart Fit Girls.

“We have so many girls who go through the program and want to do it again,” she said. “This would let them repeat the program, but in more of a mentor role, as a junior coach.”

Another addition would be a new partnership with the Fields Foundation in Aurora to use positive youth development strategies to adapt the program and make it more culturally responsive.

The campaign

The crowdfunding website features information on how various donation amounts would be used — from supporting scholarships to purchasing equipment and supplies. When giving to the campaign, titled “Body-Positive New Year’s Resolution,” donors are asked to also provide a resolution that is self-affirming and accepting of one’s body, Chard said.

“Women are bombarded with messages that we need to change and be more and do more,” she explained. “We also need to believe that we are absolutely enough, just the way we are.”

For more information, visit smartfitgirls.org. The Department of Health and Exercise Science is in CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

Smart Fit Girls will be offered through Fort Collins Recreation in the spring; visit the Fort Collins Recreator for more details.