Some people celebrate middle age with a new Volvo C70 hardtop convertible (ahem, that would be my wife). Me? I spent it trying to maintain my dignity by not flying off the back of a rapidly spinning treadmill.

Even if you've never taken a stress test before, you've seen one done on any of the zillion medical shows on TV these days. Let's say that my time taking one resembled a cross between "Mystery Diagnosis" and "Scrubs." I'm just happy it didn't turn into "CSI."

After all, who hasn't heard the following story at least once: "(INSERT NAME) was doing just fine. Then he went to the doctor for a physical and BAM! Coronary on the treadmill. They scraped bits of him off the back wall."

I asked my test technician about this, hoping to discover that these tales are an urban myth. "Oh, sure," he said. "It happens."


"But," he continued, "if you are going to have a heart attack, having one during the stress test is the best time. You're already hooked up to all the right monitors and you're surrounded by doctors and the necessary equipment to save your life."

Then he started shaving my chest.

This was the second time a man had ever shaved me.

While not on my list of life's finer pleasures, this go-round did beat the time it was performed by the urologist. And we're moving, we're moving ...

So now, I have sticky circular patches and wires galore on my body. Zero hour has come.

"You'll be walking at a brisk pace, 3.3 miles per hour," he said. "Every minute, the incline will increase 1 degree. Don't hold onto the bar. Just use it to balance yourself briefly when you need to. Let's go."

The first few minutes were deceivingly simple. I'm on a lovely stroll! Up a little hill! Watching "SportsCenter" and debating the designated hitter rule with a nice man in a white jumpsuit! How pleasant. After five minutes, I'm eyeing the clinic's "stress test record holders" whose names are on the wall in front of me. I recognize a few of them. They're all marathon runners. Only 26 minutes more to go and I will be immortalized under the clear plastic of a drugstore picture frame!

Then, somewhere around the 13-minute mark, I started rocketing through the Kübler-Ross Five Stages of Grief over my own body's flabbiness:

Denial -- That clock HAS to be slow. It's been at least an hour!

Anger -- I am going to kill my wife for talking me into this stupid physical!

Bargaining -- If I live, I'm never even THINKING about dairy and red meat ever again.

Depression -- Dear Lord, I'm going to die in a backless paper gown. Acceptance -- This gown is a lovely shade of blue, isn't it? Carolina, perhaps? Hmmm, maybe more of a periwinkle.

I made it to 22 minutes, 17 seconds before my legs went jelly. I probably could have stumbled and sweated another two minutes to move from the "good" to "excellent" health category; however, being wheeled out on a gurney would have been so anticlimactic.

My test turned out just fine. No chest pain, no fainting, no weird little blips on the monitor. The doctor did advise me to lose about 10 pounds because she was sure the extra weight was all that was holding me back from crossing into the "excellent" threshold.

I will lose that weight. Right after this double cheeseburger and triple-thick vanilla shake.

Stamford native and resident Kevin McKeever is a freelance writer. His column appears every other Friday. In between, visit his blog Email him at

More Information

Fact box