Background: I climbed Mt. Fuji the other day and a Japanese coworker asked me if the altitude made the hike difficult.
I wanted to say "The altitude didn't make it too difficult but there were times when it was hard for me to catch my breath." I'm specifically interested in the phrase "catch one's breath".
Researching online, I have found the phrase「息を呑む」. The English translation given is "catch one's breath" but this seems to be specifically the "breathtaking" meaning.
Is there a phrase that accurately describes the act of "returning to a state of normal respiration after physical exertion causes one's breath to be heavy and labored"?