Elevate is here to help you improve your technical level in orienteering. We break technique down into simpler parts. Then by analysing your races and doing specific training we assist you develop your orienteering performance level.
The Principle Orienteering Process
An Orienteering Process is a structure for how to navigate as an orienteer. It is the key things you do on every control in any area to allow you to complete the course. Having an orienteering process provides the foundation for consistency as an orienteer. It allows you to analyse your races and do specific training to develop your orienteering technical level.
What is your Process?
The question you should ask first is how do you currently orienteer and how do you want to orienteer? Most people struggle to explain either. So we built this analysis system around how we strive to orienteer which we call the Principle Orienteering Process.
The 5 Key Principles
The Principle Orienteering Process comprises 5 Key Principles for the technical demands of orienteering. They are Routechoice, Plan, Direction, Picture and Execution. It is based on research Kris Jones (elite orienteer and sports scientist) carried out that looked at the fundamentals of how to orienteer and was based on research carried out in larger sports.
Routechoice - Which route will you take?
Picking the correct route is crucial to delivering a good performance. Generally this means deciding on your routechoice before the start of the leg otherwise you risk taking a sub optimal routechoice by not investing the time before starting the leg. In sprint orienteering it is crucial to decide your routechoice before setting off otherwise you may well end up in a trap.
Plan - How will you carry out your routechoice?
A plan is simply knowing how you will tackle the next section of the leg and what you will see, for example ‘I run between the hills and then towards the group of rocks’. If you have no plan then you are at a high risk of making a mistake.
You don’t need to have a plan for the entire leg before you start it. But you must always be ahead of yourself - ie have a plan for your next steps. Some people like to describe it as a Buffer Zone. Wherever you are on the course you should always know where you will about to be. So at any point on the course if someone took away your map you could carry on running on your plan until your buffer zone was up.
It’s important the plan is strong enough, simply saying ‘I’ll run east and hopefully spot something I recognise’ is not a good plan. It needs to be specific, ‘I’ll run east on my compass to the knoll on the low ridge then once I cross it I’m looking for a clump of bushes’.
If you ever realise you don’t have a plan then stop. Make a plan before carrying on.
Direction - Are you going in the right direction according to your plan?
Theoretically if you run with perfect direction between one control and the next you will find your control without needing any other information. By always having good direction you will avoid many of the mistakes made in orienteering.
Having good direction doesn’t necessarily mean being good at bearings. There have been world medalists who have not used a compass! It’s about being aware of the direction you are travelling. This may involve looking as far ahead as possible and using distinct features to confirm your direction.
Picture - Do you have an image of the control?
Having a picture in your mind of how the control will look will make finding the control much smoother. It may be a picture for all the leg but normally you focus on having a picture for the control circle. Think about your latest race, you have a mental picture of the route you took and you can rerun the route based on this. Picture is about creating this mental picture before ever going there with just information from the map.
Picture maybe the hardest principle to nail down due to a certain crossover with ‘Plan’. But whereas a plan could be written as a list of actions and things you’ll see the picture is a mental photo/video of what you will see. By turning the 2D map into a 3D image will allow you to better expect what is coming next and therefore increase your orienteering speed. You can also describe this as visualisation.
Execution - Carrying out your plan.
You switched off, lost concentration, started thinking about what you’re having to eat after the race. Or maybe you got distracted by another runner and started following them instead of sticking to your own plan? Then your execution let you down.
However before blaming poor execution you should always go back through the previous 4 skills as often what is imagined as an execution failure is actually the failure somewhere else and often by not making a solid enough plan. From our experience execution accounts for only a small amount of mistakes.
Sometimes failure of execution seems outside of your control. The lost child who needs help, the injured runner...
Now we have broken orienteering technique down into the underlying principles we need some way to assess each part reliably and consistently. We are looking for a way to provide feedback that is accurate and objective.
To do this we rank the principles for each control simply by answering ‘Did I perform that principle well for this leg?’ with ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. It’s either good or not good enough. Simple. No sliding scale. No ambiguity. If it was a ‘No’ then did we lose time because of it? Probably but not necessarily.
When Analysing Ask Yourself:
Routechoice: Did I pick the right route?
Plan: Did I always have a plan for my next steps?
Direction: Was I going in the right direction according to my plan?
Picture: Did I have a picture of the leg and/or control circle?
Execution: Did I execute my plan correctly?
Once you submit the data we process it and display it to you in a way that shows how each of your Principles rank so you can better understand your strengths and weaknesses.
Learning from the Analysis
Doing the analysis is the first step on the road to improvement. Analysis by itself is useless. That’s why we’ve written a guide to helping you learn new skills and ideas on how to improve based on your analysis.
We also collect data on the event and area. Over time this helps identify more patterns in your technique and can be helpful when preparing for a specific race when looking back at similar races you’ve done before.
You are looking for trends in the analysis so you can train to improve your performances. A simple trend may be that you lose most time due to a problem with your direction. On the first level you may decide to do general training associated with improving direction eg a window exercise to practice bearings. But it may be worth digging into the data more - was there a correlation between the controls you made directional mistakes on? Were they all long legs? Or all in green areas? Or across featureless terrain? The more specific you can be the better you can target training to improve.
Often your weakest areas may not be your priority for training. For instance, suppose you’re terrible at picking the best routechoices. If the race that is your big goal is on an area where going straight if the best option 99% of the time, then investing time in improving routechoice is likely to yield little return for this race! You need to weigh up strengths, weaknesses, biggest training impact, etc to decide on your training priorities.
Once you have identified your training priorities then you need to work out how you can improve them. Check out our Learn section to find exercises and training ideas for how to improve your training priorities. You’ll need to think carefully about which areas and events you can use for specific types of training sessions. Going to an urban sprint to practice bearings isn’t going to work!
It can be helpful to work with a coach or a more (or other) experienced orienteer to give you input into your training plans. We can provide support in guiding you or by planning appropriate training sessions. Get in touch for more info.
How to Use Elevate
You can watch this video on what to do.
And this video for interpreting the results.
Get your map and a copy of your splits.
Log in and on your homepage select the ‘Add Course’ button.
Input the general race details. There’s some compulsory boxes (name, date, etc) and some optional boxes. The more you fill in the better quality your analysis will be and the more useful your analysis will be in the future.
The final box on the page is Outcomes. What did you learn in this race? Keep it short and simple. Maybe you started too quickly, got distracted by others, took routes through the green too much. You can always go back and edit this after you’ve done the analysis as it might change your main learning points.
Save that and go through to inputting your Principle data for the controls. There’s some helpful tips on those pages if you’re having trouble otherwise reread above.
Once you’ve finished you can see the overview of this data. Which skills did you get wrong the most? Was poor direction your biggest factor in time losses? What did you do well?
Now what will you do differently to improve? Check out our training pages for more info.