Michael Lukich can leg-press 600 pounds, ride his bike uphill for miles at a time and get his heart rate up to 190 beats per minute during intense cardio.
“Everybody is good at something,” he said.
For Lukich, a longtime Santa Monica resident and personal trainer, that “something” is athletic competition. He’s been busy traveling in recent weeks for a variety of events, keeping his mind in shape by pushing his body to new limits.
In late August, he competed in the inaugural Americas Masters Games in Vancouver, where amateur athletes over the age of 30 participated in 24 different sports.
Earlier this month he spent time in Las Vegas for the Nevada Senior Games, taking home two gold medals and two silvers in cycling. He earned first place in his age division in the 20- and 40-kilometer road races and claimed runner-up honors in the 5- and 10-kilometer time trials.
“It keeps me healthy,” he said.
It’s a lifestyle built on habit for the Lukich, a 160-pound dynamo who has been involved in fitness for decades.
Born in Belgrade in what was then Yugoslavia, Lukich was living in Vancouver until his divorce in 1980. The split prompted his move to Southern California, where he knew a Gold’s Gym operator who offered him a job as a trainer. He obtained a green card, earned U.S. citizenship in 2000 and has now lived in Santa Monica for 35 years.
Lukich always considered himself a power lifter until 1986, when he was hit by a car near Zuma Beach. After a doctor told him he couldn’t compete in lifting any longer, a friend suggested he consider cycling.
“I said, ‘That’s for wimps,’” he recalled. “But I started, and the rest is history. I got hooked.”
His foray into cycling took a serious turn while he was riding in Palos Verdes shortly thereafter. Three men who had been cycling behind him said they tried catching him to no avail. They convinced him to start racing. So Lukich entered a race in Mission Viejo.
“Like a typical beginner, I took off fast and finished last because I didn’t know what to do, technically speaking,” he said.
Lukich has refined his approach in the three decades since, winning hundreds of medals in a variety of competitions. He credits his success in cycling to his upbringing on a farm and his background in other athletic endeavors, such as gymnastics, soccer and arm wrestling.
When clients ask him what his secrets are, he tells them he has none. He doesn’t drink or smoke. He works out five or six days each week at Gold’s Gym. And he focuses on his core muscles, which are helpful for posture and power.
“It’s inspirational to a lot of people, and that makes me feel good,” he said. “It’s what I know. It’s what I like. And it’s nice to help other people.”
When he isn’t working out or assisting clients, he’s entering competitions. Lukich typically registers for events on the West Coast and usually brings a friend along.
He’s participated numerous times in the Huntsman World Senior Games, which bring thousands of athletes to Utah each year. In 2002, he was named the best cyclist of the games.
More than the hardware he wins, Lukich enjoys serving as an example for other aspiring athletes.
“That’s better than any medal,” he said. “People ask me, ‘How do you do it?’ It makes you feel good.”