I read, when I can (in Kenya we had a week of blackout...), with very much interest all the messages on this argument.
If I well remember, somebody asked to define the difference between GENERAL, SPECIAL and SPECIFIC.
a) GENERAL is all that training that has the goal to increase our qualities, like base for improving the performance.
I want to explain this with an example.
The TALENT of an athlete is like MONEY for somebody wanting to build his house. If you are Gebre, your house can be a skyscraper of 60 floors. If you are a normal athlete, may be a house of 10 floors. But, in any case, BEFORE BUILDING THE HOUSE, YOU HAVE TO BUY THE MATERIAL YOU WANT TO USE.
This is the General period. You must look for increasing your general resistance (basic for every sport), your strength, your cohordination, your rapidity (don't make confusion between RAPIDITY, that is a NERVOUS QUALITY, and SPEED : Speed is a combination of STRENGTH and RAPIDITY).
We work for several months (depending on the event) for increasing these qualities.
b) SPECIAL is that training that is connected with the Specifity of the event, but not still very specific. For example, if we use plyometric exercises for a jumper, THIS IS A SPECIAL EXERCISES : SPECIFIC is when we really jump, giving particular attention to the TECHNIQUE of the event.
In the case of a runner, when we go for speed that are faster than 10% of the speed of the race, or slower than 10%/15% (depending on the event), we can speak about SPECIAL SPEED TRAINING. When we work for increasing STRENGTH, we work in GENERAL WAY, but when we work for incresing STRENGTH ENDURANCE, extending the duration of the exercises, we work in SPECIAL WAY.
c) SPECIFIC is that training DIRECTLY connected with the event. Running 3 x 600m in 1'18" with 10' recovery for a runner of 1'44" is SPECIFIC, running 8 x 600m in 1'24" with 5' is SPECIAL, running 12 x 600m in 1'30" with 2' is GENERAL.
So, during the SPECIAL period we have already some SPECIFIC workout, and during the SPECIFIC period we continue with some SPECIAL workout. The limit between SPECIAL and SPECIFIC is very little, we move from one period to the other only modifying the percentage of one type of training compared with the other.
Also during the SPECIFIC period, we need to have, every 3 weeks about, a SPECIAL period lasting the same time, for refreshing the SPECIFIC qualities that we use for the performance, in SPECIAL way. This means to reduce a little the intensity (but not so much), to go for some SPECIAL exercise again (for example, we don't use plyometric exercises during the main 3 weeks of competitions, but, during the next period of 3 weeks WITHOUT competitions, we use them again), and to increase the volume again. Only using in correct way a modulation between intensity and quantity, and between Special and Specific training, during the competitive season, we can maintain for long time a top pick of shape.
Other thing : I see a lot of messages about the influence of Lydiard. I was, of sure, very much influenced by Lydiard, also because I started to coach very young, in 1965, and Lydiard was a winning model with his theories. But, frankly, this querelle seems to me ridicolous.
If we want that every kind of research, and every invention, can be useful for the future, we ALWAYS have to give a big merit to the beginner of the development, but we cannot stop at his beginning point. So, one thing are the principles and the phylosophy, that are still a basic "law" for all the best coaches for middle and long distances in the World, another thing their application, because science, methodology, experiences and research were able to go ahead during the last 40 years.
If somebody knows the history of methodology, knows that we had in the past several coaches that influenced full generations of athletes. Mihail Igloi, for example, the Hungarian that coached Iharos (WRH from 1500 to 10000 in the years 1955-56), Szabo, Rozsavolgyi. Or Van Aaken, the first studying the effects of long, long run on capyllarization. Or the French Frassinelli, coach of Michel Jazy (running 3 hours at very slow pace, also after beating the record of 2000 and 5000m with 13'24").
You have particular attention for Lydiard, because he was a coach of English language, and wrote books in this language. But you don't know the ideas and the phylosophy of coaches from eastern Countries, for example, that influenced the guru of Ethiopia, Woldemastre Kostre, going in Hungarian University for his scientific preparation.
I don't understand, and don't know, and I'm not interested in knowing, anything about electricity, but I'm very happy that somebody discovered and invented and developed it, so, when I go in a dark room, I have to press the bottom only for lightning it. This means that I don't waste time in trying to understand what is COMMON USE, but I start from there for going ahead with my job.
You are in the Country of the Phylosopher of Pragmatism, James. Try to be more pragmatic : the final goal is not to discuss who was, or is, better between the great coaches of the history, but to know the way for making the athletes faster. For doing this, you have to use ALL YOUR KNOWLEDGE, not limiting yourself to one source only.