One day when Matt and I were in Switzerland we walked a half an hour from one village to another. The walk down was fine, it was downhill, but coming back up was a struggle for me. It was a short walk and roughly at 5,000 or 6,000-feet of elevation so I was surprised to be struggling, but I just couldn’t catch my breath. I’d even stop walking and couldn’t quite catch my breath.
Finally Matt said to me, “Stop trying to inhale and exhale as hard as you can three times.” I did it and after the third exhale automatically took in a huge, deep breath that made me feel better. (Matt had terrible asthma as a kid so he’d learned some tricks.)
In classes I will sometimes tell people to worry about the exhale because your body won’t let you die and will eventually inhale. Joe Pilates emphasized the exhale more than the inhale and tried to get people to actually expel all the air they take in.
It was a good reminder. And I have since tried to use the “exhale three times” trick on a recent run where I sprinted hills. It didn’t work as well while I was running, but it did give me something to focus on.