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I am 28 years old. It is embarrassing and very demoralizing that I can't jump-rope. I see all the boxers in my gym do that. I also cannot swim, ride a bicycle, or run more than a mile continuously (I start getting cramps below my right rib area).

As you can tell I don't fit the description of a fighter from any angle. I used to play basketball a lot; I could play 3 full court games one after another. Then I tore my ACL, followed by my meniscus. There was no sports surgeon in my country and I could not afford one abroad. So I sat on my couch and grew into a potato over the next two years. Now I can barely run a mile. I have been doing MT for a bit more than a year now. And I love it and I want to compete in the rings sometime down the line. I study the sport, I watch videos and I like learning about it.

Sparring someone on my skill level, I perform great in the first round, but then I am just a walking heavy bag.

So what is it that I need to do before all else? Learn to skip? focus on running? Take private swimming lessons?

I have seen this and most answers suggest skipping and running.

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The only thing wrong is that you are currently out of shape and really have presented no evidence that you are doing anything to get back into shape.

I used to play basketball a lot, I could play 3 full court games one after another.

So, you had a really decent baseline fitness level, in a short burst/long duration type activity.

So I sat on my couch and grew into a potato over the next two years.

Translation: I got completely out of shape.

The good news is, the fitness is there and can be regained. You just need to start slow. However, at the moment you are a walking time bomb. By your admission, you have a torn ACL and meniscus that have never been corrected. The ACL is one of the ligaments that keeps your upper leg connected to the lower leg, and stabilizes the area. Right now, every time you walk, especially every time you do Muay Thai, you are at risk of tearing the other ligaments that are doing the work to support the missing one.

What you need to do before anything, is have an assessment by a sports doctor, and see what they recommend. Work with them, figure out safe ways for you to exercise, and simply work towards getting back in shape. Couch to 5k, today jump rope for 10 seconds, next week 30 seconds, etc etc. Progress slow. You didn't get out of shape overnight, you won't get in shape over night. You can do this, however!

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So what is it that I need to do before all else? Learn to skip? focus on running? Take private swimming lessons?

The answer is actually a simple one: Spar more rounds.

Fighting is the best possible way to get in shape for fighting. Doing extra forms of cardio are fun, and good on occasion to break things up, but you will gain your fighting stamina (and most importantly, skill) from doing tons of rounds.

You say you're tired after the first round. That's because you're being lazy after the first, and probably quitting shortly after that. Push through it. The more rounds you do, more often, the easier those later rounds will get. If you're only doing rounds twice a week, ramp that up to four times a week. If you're planning on fighting you will need to do rounds at least 5 times a week. Another important note is to make sure you're sparring with people better than you. You won't get truly tired if you're just beating someone down.

Source: Modern MMA. I only know a couple of guys that still run, and they just do it for fun. I pride myself in my excellent gas tank, and I haven't ran, swam, biked, etc. in many years. I just do TONS of rounds. The only non-fighting training I do is weight lifting to maintain muscle mass. At the end of my fights I feel like I could keep going, no problem.

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    Whilst I run/cycle for many hours outside of Martial Arts - the majority of my team mates get by with the training in sessions - that includes some of our reigning world champions... the main benefit of the running I do is keeping me in the lighter weight categories - I could spar for hours - in competition you never have to and being more effective in the short time you have is king – Collett89 Oct 19 '18 at 9:37
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    I would add breathing. Many times out of shape people can't breathe properly either, which exacerbates the problem. – JohnP Oct 19 '18 at 17:55
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    @JohnP Keeping your breath under control is a crucial part of fighting for sure! – coinbird Oct 19 '18 at 18:44
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As you have already had issues with your knee - check with your doctor/physician on a regular basis and heed their advice when it comes to the aches and pains you are suffering. Also seek help on your rib issue - training through an injury/problem rarely (read never) makes it better.

Currently your fitness is fairly poor (we have all been there - I was 20kg heavier than I am now only a few years ago), so whilst going out running would be a boost it does nothing towards your other aim of competing at a high level in your MA. So I suggest attending more sessions - as many as you can find - the nature of a session should be physically intense enough to improve your fitness as well as your technique.

Once your fitness has improved and you are nearing that high level of performance it will be about time to look at boosting it further through other training methods.

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