Do you get out of breath when running, biking or riding? It may not be your cardio fitness that is the issue. It could simply be your breathing technique or lack thereof. I’m not here to give you
medical advice but I am here to give you practical advice to help you feel more fit and able to participate in the activities you’ve chosen in your life.
Let's think of your lungs like two large mason jars.
Breathing is the act of filling the jars, then emptying the jars and then refilling the jars and so on. The "refilling" part of the process (breathing in) is typically not a problem for people. What is the problem is the "emptying" part of the process (exhaling). Without exhaling completely, you end up with less and less space for filling up again. This is where the feeling of being out of breath and unable to "catch" your breath comes from.
As explained by Noreen Iftikhar, MD in her article on Lung Function (see link below), “Every cell of the body needs oxygen to stay alive and healthy. Your body also needs to get rid of carbon dioxide. This gas is a waste product that is made by the cells during their normal, everyday functions. Your lungs are specially designed to exchange these gases every time you breathe in and out.” When we inhale, our bodies take in Oxygen. When we exhale our bodies expel CO2. With a CO2 molecule being heavier than an Oxygen molecule, it tends to sit at the bottom of the mason jar (your lungs) if not pushed out. When taking on a cardio activity whether it's running, biking, or riding a horse around a course, it's very important that we keep our focus on exhaling and that we minimize taking shallow breaths that exacerbate the problem of feeling out of breath. When pushing ourselves in an activity that requires increased lung function from our normal breathing we must actively empty out the CO2 so we don't get bogged down by the feeling that our lung capacity is shrinking as our activity increases. Nobody likes the feeling that they can't breathe. Rather than focusing on the fact that you feel as if you can't inhale, try focusing on exhaling, something you can always do. This emptying of the CO2 in the bottom of your lungs will allow your next breath to feel full and you to continue past what you previously thought was your cardio capacity limit. For more on Lung Function check out Noreen Iftikhar, MD article in Healthline.