So I’ve been thinking about an approach to orienteering that I’ve been starting to apply recently.

I don’t think it’s a replacement for more traditional training methods, but I still want to propose it as being potentially useful.

So I’m sure most people are familiar with the “Memory-O” technique or format where your goal is to memorize a few controls or even an entire course.

This training method builds off the memory concept as a way to improve key orienteering skills like simplification.

The Method

On any normal training course, memorize one (or more) controls, run to the control(s), stop when you get to the control, rinse and repeat.

Matthias Kyburz and Tove Alexanderson — routes head to head

Even more simply put: memorize one control at a time (as fast as you can), and orienteer to the control without reading the map.

Before I go any farther, I want to address some (pretty significant) drawbacks.

  1. Can’t practice reading the map while running
  2. Hard to use / practice compass skills

The first drawback is really important, since reading the map while running is one of the most important things in orienteering.

Which is why this training technique needs to be supplemented by more typical trainings: orienteering intervals, night orienteering, skill tests (corridor, compass etc.)

How does the “Memory method” work?

There are only 3 things you need to pay attention to during a memory training: memorization time, speed, and error rate.

You want to minimize the amount of time it takes to memorize the leg, maximize the speed at which you can follow the memorized route, and minimize the rate of error when following the route (going off the memorized route and losing contact).

If you can optimize these parameters, you can become a very efficient “stop and go” orienteer.

Short memorization time, high speeds, and low error rate can be further optimized by map reading while running to take in more information.


This method has definitely has its drawbacks during competition including: time lost while memorizing, rigid route choice, hard to use compass, and generally higher error rate.

But during trainings, it is a very effective form of developing key skills:

  1. Simplification
  2. Not overreading the map
  3. Running fast through terrain

There is also some variation and flexibility that can be introduced during a memory session.

Me at the WOC 2021 Sprint in Czech!

Memorizing multiple legs at a time can be useful in easy terrain or if you are training at a slow pace.

Even more useful, memorizing the direction you should exit the next control, and not stopping to memorize the next leg, but instead jog the intended direction (sorry for the scuffed explanation).

You could memorize parts of the leg at a time and try to cut your memorizing time down as much as possible.

There’s lots of ways to use memorization to improve training and make them more fun! (especially if you are going at a slow pace).

Hopefully you find this interesting and/or helpful. Enjoy orienteering!

Anthony Riley

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