Mud Run Training TOTW: To Plug or Not to Plug?

Tip of the WeekWhen it comes to cold water diving, there’s definitely some debate out there as to whether or not earplugs cause more harm than good. Generally, they are not recommended for scuba diving where increased depths and water pressure could drive the earplug further into the ear canal. Another common view is that earplugs may create an air pocket in the ear canal, which may prevent equalization and lead to injury.

When the going gets cold, most of your body heat escapes through your head, beginning with those little holes on either side.

However, when it comes to jumping into an arctic pond during a mud run (aka: Walk the Plank), you can basically throw these cautions out the window. It’s very unlikely that you’ll be jumping into anything deeper than 20 feet, so your chances of impeding equalization or diving deep enough to feel the effects of hazardous water pressure are low.

Oh, Those Shameless Plugs!

What you should worry about is the effect ice-cold still-water will have once it pours into your earhole. When the going gets cold, most of your body heat escapes through your head, beginning with those little holes on either side. Additional side-effects of the cold water swill include disorientation or dizziness, headaches (just imagine drinking a Slurpee at mach-speed), and an instant drain of your body’s energy. Long-term effects include swimmer’s ear, an infection in the outer ear canal, which runs from your eardrum to the outside of your head, and/or surfer’s ear, an abnormal bone growth within the ear canal. Both suck…so if you’re addicted to mud running, then it’s time to start to think about a quick fix.

Ear plugs not only keep the water out, they keep the heat in and help in keeping your core temperature at a max. A decent set will help regulate the temperature in your sonic organs and prevent those sensations of imbalance, dizziness and vertigo. You’ll expend less energy so you’ll have more hutzpah when you try to take on that quarter pipe or mud mile later on.

Other ways to hold the heat.

Again, heat leaves your head first and foremost. In addition to ear plugs, try:

  • a neoprene (as opposed to latex) swim cap
  • double-duty: wear two swim caps (especially if you are going with latex or silicone)
  • a face-mask/hood like this one from Under Armour
  • a few polar bear plunges or cold water torture prior to your mud run – this will definitely help you adjust quicker and decrease the cold water shock value.

Personal Experience

Just a side note…I’ve complete a few Tough Mudders without plugs and I recently completed the Tri-State course with plugs. I can honestly say that they really helped me stay oriented once I hit the water, especially during Chernobyl Jacuzzi and Walk the Plank, which was about 5 feet higher than 2010. Ear plugs are a cheap investment, but can make a big difference. If you’re looking to pick up a pair, here’s my affiliate link to a set of Mack’s AquaBlock Earplugs for around $2.50 that I really like.

For more, check out these articles:

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Mud Run Maniac
Mud Run Maniac

I'm the proud owner of, specializing in mud run training and tips! The mud run community is growing fast and I’ve made it my responsibility to keep you up-to-date on the latest and greatest mud running topics.

4 comments… add one
  • Tanya Jan 8, 2012, 5:09 pm

    Can anyone comment on the use of ear plugs for a warm weather mud run (80s-90s)? Is there an advantage to using them if cold weather is not a factor? Thanks! 🙂

  • Aaron Apr 8, 2012, 2:40 pm

    Paul –

    I have a crazy question, I doing my first mud run in the PA tough mudder in May. It can be anywhere from 50-85 degrees at that time. Does it make sense to buy and bring a wetsuit top for the swimming events? There are some cheap ones that look more like under armor than a traditional wetsuit top with the hood.


    • Mud Run Maniac Mud Run Maniac Apr 8, 2012, 3:08 pm

      I think you should be okay in just some underarmour and/or moisture-wicking clothes. Even in 50 degree weather, you should be able to warm up once you start running again. I used a wet suit for the Worlds Toughest Mudder and just for Walk the Plank, but it was December and freezing. It’s uncomfortable to run in. I’d advise against it for PA.


      • Aaron Apr 8, 2012, 3:31 pm

        Awesome, thanks for the advice! We have a team of 10 trying to finish the event, all novices.

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