Another Take on Fitness

Jean O’Neill is an orienteerer I have admired for many years. She is always willing to chat and compare maps, and is someone who admits herself, came late to orienteering. However she came with a strong athletics background, and as such I asked her to write up a few notes on what she does in training.

Jean competed internationally for Ireland over 400m and 800m in the early 1970’s (as did her sister, Claire Walsh, who competed in the Munich Olympics in 1972 and more).

Her thoughts re training are based on what she does (when reasonably fit and not injured) to train for orienteering. (compared to what Jean used to do to train for 400 or 800 metres on the track).

Jean IOC 2018

At first, starting from scratch, (or after a long lay-off)  do runs every second day, starting with 15 or 20 mins building up to 40 minutes after a couple of weeks. When comfortable with that, then  do the following, based on three training days a week plus Sunday orienteering:

1– Long run–i.e. 40 mins) (could be longer, Jean used to do 1hour)

2–Repetition hills. The River Valley up the road from Jean has a steep hill that she runs up, jog down-or walk a little if necessary). Build the number of reps up, starting with 4, to 10. The distance is about 150m. Jean has her countdown watch set for 2 minutes, going up usually took about 40 secs, jog down recovery, and ready to go again on the next beep.

3. Fartlek. This is alternate jogging and striding (faster but not flat out). 1 minute of each, no stopping. Build up the number of reps. Maybe 6 to 8 reps of fast/slow. When quite fit the time could be extended to 1 1/2, then 2 minutes of each. Its important not to stop at all. (at first even reps of 30secs would do). (again countdown watch is good for this, go or stop on the beeps)

Jean does all her training on grass. If there is suitable terrain the long runs could be done on forest tracks.

If anyone has any questions that they might like to ask Jean let me know and I will put you in contact, she would be delighted to help.


Heritage Week Orienteering – a beginners guide

Orienteering, an Adventure Sport for All.

If you haven’t tried orienteering then this is the week to give it a go…. (although you’d be welcome at any other event too!)

During Heritage week we have a number of events at multiple locations. Some are urban events with controls in around the towns and parks, others in forests and parklands. All events will welcome newcomers and experienced alike. Some of the events will have specially themed courses just for Heritage Week.

What is orienteering? Orienteering is a competitive international sport that combines running with navigation. It is a timed race in which individual participants use a specially created, highly detailed, map to select routes and navigate through diverse terrain and visit control points in sequence. This might sound a little scary to a newcomer… don’t worry we have simple courses for beginners and help is always on hand to give you some guidance before you start out. There are some useful video guides to get you thinking beforehand if you’d like to do some homework first!

Why try Orienteering? Orienteering is suitable for everyone, individuals, families, young and old, serious fitness fanatics and those who would just like to stretch their legs and add a little more pzazz to their evening stroll. Orienteering is a sport where everyone can participate alongside experienced sportsmen, at the same event. How is this possible? Orienteering events have a number of courses of varying abilities in one location; allowing a more experienced orienteer to run a longer course with control markers positioned in more difficult locations and, by contrast, a shorter course with easier controls for beginners, families or children. Orienteering is also for all age groups, at competitive events there are age categories from aged under 10 to under 80!

Orienteering excercises the body and the mind simultaneously! Navigating around the map requires concentration, visualisation and observational skills whilst moving between control points. The moving could be a full speed, like our international athletes, or walking along at your own pace. It’s up to you. It goes without saying that being outside, often in a natural setting, also puts the mind in a better space.

Orienteering develops independance and independant thinking. Young children first start off with their family, a parent or older sibling guiding them, each with their own map, pointing out the different features as they are passed, a track junction, a tree or a pond for example. Usually parklands or simple forests with tracks are a good place to start. All of our Heritage Week venues are suitable. As the child progresses, the guide will participate less, but still accompany the child to ensure they do not stray too far off the intended route. Soon the child begins to follow the map themselves and the guide is no longer required. Over time the child progresses to different course levels and more tricky terrains as their ability improves.

Is Orienteering suitable for families? Yes families with small children might like to do a short course together. Families with older children could each do a seperate course of varying length, or could compete on the same course but start at staggered intervals (so you can’t follow each other!). It’s great fun to get back to the finish and see which different routes your family have taken and of course sibling rivalry can also be put to the test!

Is Orienteering suitable for a group? Why not use one of our events as a team builder and bring along your club for a training session with a twist? Scout groups, rugby or soccer teams & athletics clubs often use our events for a change of training scene. Please contact the host orienteering club in advance if you intend to bring a group to ensure there are sufficient maps prepared.

Why is there a time range for events? Orienteering is not like a match! As there a several courses run at the same event, participants start at intervals so they cannot follow each other (it’s not advisable anyway, they might have chosen a bad route!). So if the event says 11.00 am to 1.00pm starts, you can start your course anytime in that window, however there will also be a course close time. You must be off the course and registered as finished by the ‘course close’ time. If you’re a beginner it’s best to arrive nearer to the start time to ensure you have enough time to finish the course without pressure.

What do I need to bring? As a beginner you only need to bring yourself, dressed in comfortable clothing and footwear suitable for your chosen location and weather forecast! If you have a compass it might be useful, but not essential on a beginners course. Also some money, clubs charge varying amounts for their courses but there’s always a family rate and it won’t break the bank! If you would like to know the cost before you arrive please contact the club directly before the event to check their pricing structure, club links can be found next to each event below.

So what’s left to do? Well it’s Heritage Week so there are loads of events all over the country, check out the Heritage Week schedule and combine one of our events below with your day trip or just pop down after work to one of our evening events.

Come & Try it. 


20 Lyredane Wood Cork Cork Mid-Summer League / Family Day / No. 8 Bishopstown
22 Phoenix Park Dublin 3ROC Tuesday Evening Series / No. 2 – Start @ Magazine Fort Three Rock
24 Duckett’s Grove Carlow Non-league / ‘Come-and-try-it’ Event Waterford
24 Naas Kildare ‘Come-and-try-it’ Event / Heritage Week (Urban) Curragh-Naas
27 John F. Kennedy Arboretum Wexford Non-league / ‘Come-and-try-it’ Event Waterford
27 Ballincollig Regional Park (Central) Cork Cork Mid-Summer League / Family Day / No. 9 Bishopstown
27 St Anne’s Park Dublin Fingal September Scatter Series / No. 1 Fingal

All events are organised by club volunteers.

If you enjoyed your Heritage Week orienteering session and would like to try another event just check our fixtures page for an event near to you.

Orienteering in Ireland
  • Orienteering Ireland
    Irish Sport HQ
    D15 DY62