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Fitocracy: the NYC Fitness App That Helped Miss America Ace the Bikini Competition

Level up with heavy lifting.
Mallory Hagan

Ms. Hagan and Mr. Fisher

Politicos like Chuck Schumer and Marty Markowitz have been quick to claim Mallory Hagan’s new pageant title a victory for “the borough of Kings,” nevermind that the Alabama native and former Miss New York is a relatively recent transplant. But as it turns out, one New York City tech startup might also be able to bask in the bling of the Miss America crown.

“In case you haven’t yet heard, the new Miss America is a @fitocracy community member + trainee of @DickTalens,” LoyalCX founder Sarah Judd Welch tweeted this weekend. Mr. Talens–a former fat kid turned body builder–is one of the cofounders of Fitocracy, an addictive fitness app that motivates users by treating workouts like you’re leveling up in Everquest or World of Warcraft. 

The app, which recently released an Android version, stands out in the crowded fitness market for its enviable user engagement numbers. Between the web version and online app, the average user is spending 3.5 hours a month on Fitocracy, Mr. Talens said. That’s higher than Tumblr, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Mr. Talens said he was actually introduced to Ms. Hagan last April through Alchemy, another New York-based startup that helps users “unlock the power” of their network of contacts. Alchemy “also introduced us to our CPO, i.e. the Cocken in Dick/Wang/Cocken,” he told Betabeat, referring to a delightful confluence of names among Fitocracy’s staffers.

After meeting Ms. Hagan for coffee, he ended up working with her for two months prior to the Miss New York competition, which she won. “A lot of women have this notion that in order to lose weight, you need to do a lot of cardio, cut out all fat, all carbohydrates, etc.,” when heavy lifting and getting the right nutrients yields better results, Mr. Talens said.

But when it came to a national competition on a bigger stage, he admitted, “I really didn’t know too much about optimizing for a women’s physique in bikini competitions.” Mr. Talens continued to offer nutrition and dieting advice, but reached out to the Fitocracy community for suggestions. They helped her find a trainer named Sohee Lee, based out in California and Mark Fisher Fitness, a local gym frequented by Broadway stars.

At the same time, Ms. Hagan became active on the Fitocracy app. “She was talking to all the users. All of our community loved her,” said Mr. Wang, who sent us to a video she made which shows her going through her training routine. “She created it for Fitocracy users, which was really cool. She’s become a little bit of a cult icon in the fitness world for women.”

As the New York Times noted, Ms. Hagan’s win has credited to her tap dancing, campaign against child sexual abuse and dexterous response to a question about gun control. But Mr. Talens pointed out that Ms. Hagan had been runner-up in Miss New York twice before she won. “I don’t know if it was necessarily because of the bikini portion of it, but it certainly helped that she got into fantastic shape,” he said.

If Fitocracy gets a bump from its Miss America connection, it’ll be icing on the cheat day cake. The app was recently featured on “The Dr. Oz Show,” and has been focused on customer support to get data back from new users. Mr. Talens said he wasn’t actually sure whether to attribute the deluge of new users to Dr. Oz, its recent Android release, or New Year’s resolutions. “January is a very big time for fitness companies,” he said.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com