With so many theories and strategies surrounding proper warm up, nutrition, and hydration for endurance running, it is hard to know what information is the most accurate. The truth is, there is not one correct method that is best for all runners. Everyone is unique, and you must experiment and find out what works best for you. Research on these topics is conflicting, however, there are some general findings that can help race day go smoothly.
Regarding the never-ending debate on static versus dynamic stretching, this is what the research has found. A study looking at the acute effect of dynamic stretching on endurance running performance found that performing dynamic stretching during warm-up before a race is effective for improving performance. This study used dynamic stretching to stretch five target muscle groups: the hip flexors (moving knee towards chest), hip extensors (moving leg down from a raised position), leg extensors (straightening the knee), leg flexors (bending the knee), and plantar flexors (moving the foot down). See image below of the 5 dynamic stretches performed in the study. The stretches were performed as quickly and powerfully as possible without bouncing so the correct muscle was targeted. Each stretch was performed for 1 set of 10 repetitions on both legs and then on the next target muscle group without rest. The total time of the dynamic stretching was about 4 minutes. These parameters were based on a systematic review (a very high-quality research study) to find the optimal protocol for dynamic stretching to improve explosive performance immediately after being performed. This review suggested that dynamic stretching should be performed “as quickly as possible in velocity” and “one-two set(s) of 10–15 repetitions in volume.” Based on these studies, a dynamic stretching routine used during warm-ups for well-trained runners might improve their race times.
As far as static stretching, it appears there are different effects on men and women. A study on female runners found that stretching did not have an adverse effect on endurance performance in trained women. This suggests that stretching before a race does not decrease performance in trained women. However, a study on male runners found that stretching before an endurance event may lower endurance performance and increase the energy cost of running in male distance runners. Ladies, if you want to stretch before a race, go for it. It will not decrease your performance. Men, you might want to skip static stretching because it may negatively affect your performance.
Another hot topic regarding race day is carbohydrate consumption during the event. Current evidence suggests carbohydrate beverages (5–8% concentration) consumed at a modest rate (100–200 ml every 15–20 minutes) likely enhance running performance relative to water and placebo. Performance benefits are most likely to occur during events that last longer than 2 hours, although several studies showed benefits for events lasting 90–120 minutes. Consuming carbohydrate beverages well above the required amount does not provide additional performance benefits and likely increases GI discomfort. Therefore make sure you are consuming enough carbohydrates, but more is not necessarily better on race day.