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Local club invites you to take a run on the 'wild' side ... for free

'She pushes me to go outside of my comfort zone. It’s very motivating because she puts her heart and soul into helping us succeed,' says novice runner
Participants of Wild Life Academy’s six-week run club, Terri Laflamme, left, and Robin Ackert, right, were non-runners before they joined the program in 2019. They both accomplished a 5-km distance and then participated along with Wild Life co-director and coach, Jill Sargent, in Polar Rush 2019, a fun 5-km obstacle race at Horseshoe Resort.

Have you always wanted to learn to run, or maybe improve your 5-km or 10-km times? Here’s your chance! This month, you can join a virtual spring run club, and it’s free!

The run club is a six-week program offered by Wild Life Academy, a family-owned business located near Coldwater, that specializes in recreation, fitness and team-building.

“Lots of people are excited to run, especially at this time of year,” said Jill Sargent, who owns and operates Wild Life Academy with her husband, Jason.

“Right now, everyone wants to get outside, so we’ve designed our program to suit all ages, from children to seniors, with a variety of levels for beginners to more experienced runners. Our most popular level is the 'Couch to 5-km' plan, along with our 5-km Improvement plan,” explained Sargent.

Along with custom-designed training plans for each level, the program also includes a series of online workshops, led by Sargent, on topics such as nutrition, stretching, and footwear.

As co-director at Wild Life Academy, Sargent specializes in health and fitness coaching. A graduate of Georgian College’s Recreation and Tourism Management program, Sargent is also a certified personal trainer and registered holistic nutritionist.

She has been a successful competitive athlete in many sports and continues to excel at running. She has competed in the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships and more recently has enjoyed the challenge of ultra – or long distance – running.

“We’re all trying to get through these COVID times, when we seem to be losing control of things. For me, running has helped a lot. Although I had always been impressed by ultra runners, I never tried it. When COVID happened, I decided to enter some (virtual) races – and it’s turned out to be a welcome challenge for me. It really helped my mental health.”

Sargent explained that at Wild Life, they are trying to do the same for their clients and program participants – helping people to feel healthy.

It’s something that has certainly worked for participants like Robin Ackert of Severn Township who completed the Wild Life run club program last fall.

“I was not a runner before I joined the program and now I can run five kilometres. For me, it was such a satisfying goal to achieve,” said Ackert. “Jill is extremely positive and an encouraging mentor in every way. She pushes me to go outside of my comfort zone. It’s very motivating because she puts her heart and soul into helping us succeed.”

As a busy, self-employed mom, running has become a way for Ackert to spend more time outdoors, have some “me” time, and work towards her next goal – to complete a 10-km run.

The program is also a way for participants to take part in an online community, something Sargent says is especially important right now.

“People are missing the chance to get together, but with an online community, you can meet people and share interests. Even though people are bored with work calls and Zoom meetings, when it comes to fitness and recreation activities, screen time is a lot more fun,” said Sargent.

An avid participant in many Wild Life programs, Terri Laflamme, of Midland, agrees.

“It has been super fun to have an online challenge during the pandemic. With the spring run club, we’ll get to check in once a week, pick up some tips and get our plan for the week’s workouts.”

Laflamme’s goal is to improve her 5-km time, while also looking forward to entering races in the future.

“Jill makes you want to try your best,” said Laflamme. “And she’s 100% with you, participating alongside everyone; she’s a real team player.”

A big part of the spring run club is sharing progress and accomplishments.

“It’s like an accountability program,” said Sargent. “Even though running is often something people do alone, it helps to be inspired by others. It’s motivating to see everyone’s posts. And the weekly workshops are like mini pep talks.”

The program finishes with a virtual race and each participant is awarded a virtual medal, which is often proudly shared on social media.

In addition to helping people improve their running, the six-week spring run club is also a way for Wild Life Academy to introduce people to the many activities offered by the business.

“We offer a wide range of programs – both in person and online – so this is a great way for people to get a feel for what we do in a way that’s accessible and affordable,” said Sargent.

In addition to the onsite programs offered at the Wild Life Academy forest property, such as camps for kids and obstacle course teambuilding, Wild Life currently offers a monthly membership that provides access to a whole range of fitness training and fun activities for the entire family.

To join the spring run club or to learn more about the many activities offered at Wild Life Academy, visit