COLORA — When Ruth Ham came to NLX Fitness for the first time, she was 69 years old.

“I didn't like the way I looked,” she said, sitting in the weight room at NLX in June. “I would work and come home and drink my sodas and have my chips. I wasn't real heavy but it was too heavy for myself. I didn't like it.”

When she stopped by NLX, a fitness center in Rising Sun, to see about a membership, she didn’t think she could afford it. By pure good luck, though, she later won a raffle that secured a year’s membership for free. That was five years ago.

She befriended Diana Wood, NLX owner Frank Wood’s wife, so Frank would train them together.

Now, she comes in five days a week — doing both cardio and weight training.

“I get upset if I miss one day and I always try and work out in my own apartment too,” she said. “I love coming to the gym, it just makes me feel better.”

It wasn’t just about losing weight for Ham. She underwent a lifestyle change that now includes consistent exercise and eating healthy. She noted that she has stuck to a nutrition plan that NLX personal trainer Tony Atwood helped her develop.

“She inspires other people,” Frank said. “She has a lot of perseverance. She never quit and she kept working hard.”

“I don’t give up,” Ham added.

Before retiring from nursing in 2011, Ham worked nursing homes, now she assists other people living in her apartment building with cleaning to make some money to come to the gym. She recounted helping one neighbor move a refrigerator.

“She said, 'Boy, you know how to do it.' I said, 'I sure do,’” Ham said. “I said, 'I work out, I'm strong.'”

Aside from around 75 pounds, Ham has gained something irreplaceable: a family.

For Ham, who spent time in the foster system as her mother, between the Woods — Frank, Diana, Frankie and Mikael — and Atwood and Erin Birney, NLX has become a community for Ham.

She recounted memories from the last five years, noting that for her 70th birthday, Birney threw Ham a party.

“I didn’t get many birthday parties,” she said of her childhood.

“It's like a family. I love it," she continued. "They make you feel good, they make you feel wanted."

Frank agreed. “We’re like Ruth’s family. We consider her like family.”

Ham said she was grateful NLX gave her a shot. She added that she often tries to get other people to come, too.

“It doesn't matter what age you are, get out and do it,” she said. “You can always do something, don't ever say you can't do it. You can do it. Just make up your mind to get up and do it.”

She noted that it takes a little push to take the first step, though.

“It was hard for me and it was a scary feeling at first when I first started here,” she said. “I felt funny inside like like I wasn't going to get to make it and get here but I did.”