Last week I had the ‘pleasure ‘ of undertaking a ‘Bruce Protocol’ test. This is a commonly used, treadmill based exercise test used in the evaluation of cardiology patients.

I had this to determine if the stress of exercise was resulting in abnormal heart beats such as LQTS.

You will probably see this acronym often in my blogs as it is the term used for the condition they are investigating and appear to have found with my heart beat.

Anyway….back to the point of this post.

The Bruce test is carried out under medical supervision whilst you are wired up to an ECG monitor and have a blood pressure cuff attached to your arm.

I first had this test done two years ago. I received a letter at the time from the hospital informing me to wear some comfortable clothing and shoes as it involves ‘walking on a treadmill’………..this was not quite true!

I was wired up and my blood pressure taken. I asked how long the test would take and was informed that it finished when I have had enough!

I was about to state that we could be there for hours but bit my tongue.

The test started with a slight incline at a sedentary pace. Three minutes later the incline increased as did the speed. This continued every three minutes. By the end of the sixth stage I was clinging on and sweating profusely in my work clothes. Stage 7 commenced. Midway through I asked how many more stages they were: “this is the last one”….”so the test then finishes?”……”no, we carry on at this pace and speed until you say stop”

My heart sank (pardon the pun) and I stopped the test. I had to get back to work and my work clothes were soaked in sweat.


So here I am, two years later and this time prepared! I had trained for this and came prepared in full running kit!

The nurse who set me up explained the test: Seven stages; 3 minutes per stage and a maximum time of 21 minutes……..he then went on to state that he had only ever seen two others complete the test in all the time he had worked in cardiology!…… anyone who knows me well will tell you that is a red rag to a bull!

Off we went, again at a small incline and sedentary pace. Gradually the pace and incline increased and gradually I became more cardiovascular stressed (so to speak!) Halfway through the nurse asked me if I was okay, whilst the doctor measured my blood pressure. He also asked if I had ever run this long before!….did he just wave his red cape again!

Finally onto the last stage and it was hard now. The test is equivalent to running up a hill that starts off gradually and increases gradient as you progress…meanwhile you are speeding up as it gets steeper, so by the end you are at maximum heart rate and gasping.

No way was I not going to complete the full 21 minutes! The treadmill turned off at 21 minutes and I came to a sudden halt (no gradual warmdown here!)

After a final blood pressure check and when both that and my pulse was back to a normal level I was allowed to go. After a shower (I never realised before that they had changing rooms and a shower!) I walked out feeling rather smug with myself!

I now await my next visit to the cardiologist to discuss the results.

As a final note on Bruce Protocol testing: I reckon most runners I know would be able to complete the test. It is tough but no worse than some hill training or a fast parkrun!

I also discovered by searching google that you can type your completed time into a calculator and it will determine your VO2 max! I tried this and it came out at 73.6 ml/kg/min….this, I believe is similar to some elite athletes…..a load of bull then!

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