An integrated, multifactorial approach to periodization for optimal performance in individual and team sports

The article.

Some of you may have seen our recent article “An integrated, multifactorial approach to periodization for optimal performance in individual and team sports” , a collaboration between myself and co-authors Shona Halson, Louise Burke, Gloria Balagué and Damian Farrow. The article was published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance at the end of May, but the project began 40 months ago.

For those of you who are not directly involved in the process of scientific publishing and may wonder how these collaborations work, here is a brief making-of.

On Friday, February 13, 2015, I e-mailed my friends Gloria, Louise and Shona from Frankfurt airport, when I was about to board a plane to lecture in Tehran, Iran. Here is an edited version of my e-mail:

“Dear Gloria, Louise and Shona, As you know, I have always considered, and I often mention so in my presentations, that optimal training adaptation and sports performance should be based on four major areas: training, recovery, nutrition and psychology. At some point in the recent past I have discussed with each of you periodization issues in relation with your own areas of expertise, which are precisely psychology, nutrition and recovery. So today I thought it would be great to put together a paper connecting these four major areas. I was considering either a review article (6,000 words) or a leading article (3,000 words). If you like the idea and you are willing to play, please let me know what you think as soon as you can.”

Replies arrived very quickly:

- “That sounds great! I would love to be a part of that project.”
- “Count me in! Sounds great.”
- “Iñigo’s angels? I’m up for a part as long as we get to wear good frocks.”

Five months later (July 2015) the project was still at the “great idea stage”, but we did manage to set an initial deadline to prepare our respective sections by November 2015. In the meantime, I found-out that my friend and former colleague at the AIS Damian Farrow had been doing some excellent work on the periodization of skill acquisition, so I invited him to join the project, and he accepted. The deadline had by then been extended until April 2016 (we are all busy people, you know). Then the Rio 2016 Olympic preparations got in the way, so we decided to extend it a little more; then grants, then research projects, then extended travel, then…

In October-November 2017 I had five full weeks in my hands to move the project forward, so I thought “it is now or never”, and I became a pushy leading author trying to get updated versions of each co-author’s contribution, including my own, with very tight and strict deadlines. I spent almost two months writing and editing what by then had been nicknamed “The Giant Review”. Indeed, the initial idea of a 3,000-6,000 word paper had turned into a 15,000 word manuscript, and manuscripts that size are seldom considered by scientific publishers. Fortunately for us the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance considered it worthy of publication in its special issue on football (soccer), but the reviewers requested including some additional materials that extended the word count to over 16,300 words and the list of references to 187 papers. So “The Giant Review” kept on growing!

As I indicated in the introduction the article was published three weeks ago and it is by now the most downloaded article from the journal website. That’s the brief story of “The Giant Review”, and I want to take the opportunity to thank Shona, Louise, Gloria and Damian for their fine work during this long process.

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You can download the full article for free by clicking here.

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