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Are we making staying in shape more difficult than it has to be? Here’s how to get back to more effective basics.

I squat with my rear end sticking out. It is a humbling position, for reasons I don’t have to explain, but it is more humbling for me because I can’t do it right.

On Peter Park’s direction, I hold the squat. I sweat profusely. I wobble. I am a wing-clipped duck straining against a high wind. Park is evaluating my fitness which, until this moment, I considered pretty good.

A Santa Barbara, California, certified strength and conditioning specialist and co-author of the book The Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Break Through Back Pain and Move with Confidence (Rodale; foundationroots.com), Park is bucking the latest fitness trends by returning to the oldest trend of all: the simple basics. What he does works, which is why his client list includes Lance Armstrong, surf star Kelly Slater, and Los Angeles Lakers guard Derek Fisher. More important to me, Park works with plenty of middle-age folk who, though they exercise regularly (and maybe even obsessively), aren’t getting the results they should and are often risking injury. In short, they’re inflexible, imbalanced, and incapable of doing a perfect squat.

Park makes Clint Eastwood look expressive, but when he’s surprised his eyebrows bump up slightly.

“You’re really tight,” he says, watching me squat and wobble, “and your form is all wrong.Before you even lift a weight, you need to make sure the simple movement patterns are perfect.If they’re not, you’re just reinforcing bad habits.”

I’ve exercised my entire life. I wish Park would let me stand. My back is killing me. I try not to cry.

“It’s harder than I thought,” I say.

Park nods.

“It’s like trying to reprogram after all these years.”

I’m done pretending.

“I’m a mess,” I say.

“Not unfixable,” Park says.