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This is how you learn orienteering – here are the world champion´s best tips

Written by Icebug

Learning orienteering is truly not easy. But when you finally succeed, it might be the best thing ever. We asked the world’s greatest orienteer, Tove Alexandersson to share her best tips.

Many endurance sports had their peak in the 1980´s, and that includes the orienteering. Though, after a weak time, the sport is on its way up. All around Sweden, adults attends beginners courses to learn the map and compass, and the exercise contests are more successful since a very long time.

– In my opinion, there´s a strong regrowth in the sport right now. Extreme races, Tjurruset and that kind of things have been popular for a while, and in a lot of ways that´s actually very similar to orienteering. Then you have the specific elements of orienteering that can be a bit discouraging when you´re new to it, which I can understand, says Tove Alexandersson, orienteer of the Swedish national team and multiple world champion.   

Many of us got a shorter education in orienteering during elementary school, but for those who haven´t kept themselves updated in the world of maps, it´s easy to get lost in the woods. And it can take a while before you feel connected with the map.

-It takes time, and you shouldn’t rush through it, Tove says. It´s a good start to bring the map out in the forest, and walk, or even stand with it. In this way, you´ll get an understanding and also learn how the maps details looks in reality.

She also recommends to read as much maps as possible. Tove herself, saves all her competition maps, which has given her a voluminous collection through the years. Tove highlights that most of us actually have maps closer to us than we think.

The orienteering clubs has access to maps, but many of those who exercise have for example GPS-watches, with which you can log your workout, look at your rout afterwards and compare it with maps. The more maps you read the more you´ll understand.

If you want to learn orienteering, you have to have patience. That will sometimes mean that an adult who attends an exercise contest will have to be ready to run in the same track as the 10- year olds.

– You can´t go directly to the toughest tracks, you have to start with the easier ones in order to get the right feeling, Tove says. It´s the same for every orienteer, everyone starts running with maps where the controls are placed in path crossings, and then continues with maps where the controls are at a maximum of 20 meters from the path. You have to start with easy and work your way up.

There are a lot of different ways to learn how to orienteer, but basically, you have to choose if you want to learn it on your own or take help from others. Sweden is full of communities where the members gladly teaches the basics in orienteering – and many communities have organized beginners courses. If you prefer to learn orienteering on you own, (and in Swedish) you can, for example, immerse yourself in orienteering literature from Sisu. Another option is to try Hittaut or Naturpasset, which are two services that place controls in the woods, and you can go find them whenever it suits you.

If you like, you can also try running a competition. Most of the orienteering competitions has open exercise classes where beginners can try out the sport, and there is also motionsorientering which is a training competition for beginners.

– I have always competed much, and I really think that competition is the best practice, says Tove Alexandersson. It´s also a good way to learn orienteering, it´s fun to try out running in the same forest as the professionals. Besides, there are orienteering competitions almost every weekend in Sweden, so just keep on going until you have it.

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