When Chesney Mariani shared her dream of becoming a Supernatural coach, the team behind the successful VR fitness app made her wish come true.
August 24, 2021
Over the past year, breakout Oculus Quest hit Supernatural has taken the VR fitness world by storm. It takes everything people love about VR rhythm games like Beat Saber and Pistol Whip and combines it with motivational coaching to keep you in the groove. Earlier this month, we published a guest post from Supernatural Head of Fitness and Lead Coach Leanne Pedante, who shared her own fitness journey and how the Supernatural community has flourished since the app launched in April 2020. Today, Supernatural released a new workout featuring guest coach Chesney Mariani — an inspiring and active community member who’s worked out every day in Supernatural for 365 days straight. So we sat down with her to get her story.
Chesney Mariani: About a year ago this month, a friend of mine told me I should totally get an Oculus Quest because it was super fun and I could get some exercise in with it. The first time I used it, I was blown away. I immediately felt like I had left my home and entered another dimension.
How did you first get introduced to Supernatural? What was that experience like?
CM: I saw Supernatural in the Oculus Quest Store. I liked the ad, but what really got me over the edge was the free trial. I felt like I could take my time to try the workouts and see if I liked them before having to commit to a subscription.
I was hooked after that very first workout. I immediately felt so powerful in Supernatural. I loved that there was a coach in there with me, speaking to me and telling me what I needed to do with no negativity, no in-your-face instruction. The coaches are so friendly, and the music is so fabulous. Moving in Supernatural felt so much more freeing and empowering than any other form of exercise I had ever tried before in my life. And the most meaningful part for me was how accomplished I felt after my first workout. I wanted to have that feeling of accomplishment over and over again.
What was your fitness journey like before Supernatural? How has Supernatural changed the way that you think about movement and fitness?
CM: I hated fitness before Supernatural. As much as I tried, I couldn’t stick to anything, and I felt rejected by all the fitness options out there. I didn’t want to go to a gym because I felt judged in that space. Bikes were too expensive for me to afford. I tried walking two to three times a week, and I would wear headphones, but even that started to get boring. No matter how hard I tried, I just kept getting demotivated, and I started to feel like I didn’t even want to move. Then I found Supernatural, and it helped me fall in love with movement. Every day I get into my headset, the endorphins flow through my body, and I just want to do it over and over again. Supernatural gave me a fitness journey I could fall in love with.
What’s your experience been with the Supernatural Facebook Group? Are you active there? Has it been a source of support and encouragement for you?
CM: Everybody in the community is so kind and welcoming — there’s no judgment. The day I made my first post introducing myself, everyone was so friendly to me. There wasn’t a single negative comment. That told me that this is where I need to be, and these are people that appreciate other people. And I remain super active in the Facebook Group for that reason! What I’ve learned there is that if you show up for yourself, no matter the workout level or duration, it is good enough.
Throughout my fitness journey with Supernatural, the community has been there to encourage me and help me push through. There were days I would post something along the lines of, “I didn’t feel good today, but I still got a five-minute workout in,” and everyone still cheered me on. No one said that I didn’t do enough. Everyone celebrated with me. And that gave me the motivation to continue doing what I was doing.
How did you feel when you first heard that you were going to be a guest coach for Supernatural?
CM: I was in disbelief. I got a little lightheaded because this really isn’t something that I had expected. When Leanne asked me, “Can we bring you to Los Angeles so you can coach your very own Supernatural workout?” I gasped because it felt like it wasn’t real. I was on cloud nine. I didn’t know how it was possible, but it was, and I was going to go.
What does it mean to you to be a guest coach for Supernatural and to be able to spread a message of self-love to others?
CM: It means everything to me. Because so many people don’t love themselves. They look at themselves and they call themselves names. I know this because I’ve been there. When you’re stuck in that type of rut, it’s really hard to pull yourself out. But showing people that I can love myself shows them that they can love themselves too, no matter what. And I think it gives them a little glimmer of hope.
What’s your favorite positive affirmation to say to yourself?
CM: “I’m amazing.” I feel like I’m bragging when I say that, and please know that that’s not what this is. But I feel pretty damn amazing because I’ve done a lot. I’m down more than 70 pounds as of today. So I have to get up every morning and say, “Damn, I’m amazing.”
With the weight loss, I feel physically better, but something else has changed in me. ... I believe in myself now, and I want to help other people, and I feel something warm radiating in me that I want to spread to others. I don’t want to say a virus because I have a thing with zombies [laughs], but I feel like I can help spread something really positive.
What was it like to meet the Supernatural coaches in person?
CM: It was a dream come true. I know that sounds so cliché, but it was! I had spent 300+ days with these people in the headset, so I knew their personalities, and when I met them in real life, I felt like I was seeing my friends. They’re the same inside the headset as they are outside the headset. It was one of the most amazing things, and I honestly feel like I’ve made five new friends for life.
The day before my coaching session, all the coaches got together to share a piece of advice with me that they have learned from all their time coaching and helping others. When it came time for Coach Dwana to share some advice with me, she immediately started to break down in tears. You see, Dwana and I have experienced a lot of the same pain. We both know what it’s like to be made fun of on the playground and have that name-calling follow you throughout your life. Dwana just kept crying and telling me how much I was going to help people by doing what I’m doing. We just held each other and cried a lot.
What went into the design of your guest workout for Supernatural? How did you go about selecting the music and nailing down the choreography?
CM: It was amazing to meet with all the teams that make a Supernatural workout.
Choosing music was tough! Here’s the thing — I’m a huge music fan, and there’s a huge spectrum of music that I love. I worked with Jess Zobler (Supernatural’s Content Creative & Programming Lead) to make a playlist of songs that are inspirational, motivational, and help you feel good about yourself. The two songs that I am most drawn to in the playlist are “Skyscraper” by Demi Lovato and “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman. When I first heard the lyrics of “This is Me” from Supernatural's Mighty Musicals workout, they really spoke to me: “I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.” I’ve been through a lot. Growing up, my ego was bruised a lot. People would look at me and say, “There she blows,” and call me “Free Willy” on the playground. I feel that I have battle scars that no one can see. These lyrics spoke to the pain that I’ve been through, and I knew I wanted that song in my playlist.
When it came to the choreography of the movements — as a former ballet and tap dancer — I told Benny White (Supernatural's Lead Choreographer) it’s all about the complex moves. I love taking my hands in different directions at the same time and bringing them together to the beat of the music. I feel so graceful when I’m in the headset, and so powerful and free when I am flowing to the music.
Are there any highlights from the experience that you’d like to call out? Fun anecdotes to share?
CM: The whole experience itself was like nothing I had ever dealt with. When the documentary about my experience launched, as excited as I was, I was a little nervous. As positive as I am, there’s still always this tiny little piece in the back of my head that’s wondering, “How many people are going to comment that I need to eat a salad, or go to the gym?” That was one of the scariest things, because I knew it was going out to a lot of people.
Once it left the gates, I didn’t see a single negative comment. After all of that nervousness, all I saw was people supporting me, celebrating me, and saying that they felt seen by me and were motivated and inspired to get back into the headset.
People have reached out to me saying that they also struggle with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and are grateful that I’ve shared my story and inspired them. People have reached out asking where they can buy a headset so that they can join and work out with me. People have asked if I’d be their personal coach.
They see someone who looks like them, they see me do it, and then they know that they can do it.
It’s truly amazing.
If people take one thing away from your workout, what do you hope it would be and why?
CM: I want them to feel like they can give themselves a great big hug after the workout. I want them to love themselves. You have to love yourself before you love anybody else.
What advice would you give to someone who’s new to VR and/or new to working out?
CM: Put one foot in front of the other. Take it one day at a time. That was the problem for me when I was walking, going to the gym, or using a trainer. I would look so far in the future and then get overwhelmed. Take it one step, one day, one workout at a time. If it takes you two hours to do the workout, it does not matter. Go at your own pace.
Before Supernatural, people had said to me, “You’re going to hate the workout but love the benefits.” That’s wrong. Signing up for a workout you hate is why people don’t stick to it. Keep looking for something that you love. It’s out there.
If you’re just starting on Supernatural, find workouts with music you really like. There are over 500 workouts. The best thing to do is search by genre, find a playlist of music you love, and start at low intensity. Let yourself enjoy it, and it’ll be so much easier to stick with.
You’ve been working out in Supernatural for 365 days straight. Why is this a workout that’s stuck vs. working with a trainer, a gym membership, or some other form of fitness?
CM: There are no mirrors. There’s nobody standing next to you, in front of you, or behind you watching you. There’s no judgment. There’s no trainer in your face, telling you to do better. All you get is positive reinforcement from the coaches telling you that you can do this. It’s so much easier to work out in an environment without judgment while traveling the world than it is to have someone in your face yelling at you.
And then there’s the music. If you enjoy music — the way that the choreography is done — it’s impeccable. When you move your body to the beat of the drums or to the guitar riff, it kind of makes you feel like you’re the one doing it — you’re the one playing the guitar, you’re the one playing the drums, you’re the one conducting an orchestra in the Sweat Symphony workout, and it’s a feeling of total empowerment and joy.
What is it about Supernatural in specific or working on in VR more generally (or both) that really clicked for you?
CM: The music selection in Supernatural is nothing I’ve ever seen in any other VR app or rhythm game. You’re constantly getting more content and more songs. At least one new workout is released every day. VR has made working out a game to me. Even though there’s a leaderboard in Supernatural, the only person I’m competing with is myself. And it’s such fun competition. There’s no pressure — just joy.
How do you think VR might continue to positively impact people’s relationships with their bodies in the future?
CM: The best part about working out in VR is that you aren’t distracted by your body. You put the headset on and you’re in an entirely new place where you feel like you can do anything. And when you’re in that state, you feel so empowered, and you’re able to give your workout all this focus, attention, and power that you wouldn’t be able to give in other settings. You then leave the workout feeling so accomplished, seeing all your sweat. You’ll just look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Damn!”
I never found that feeling of accomplishment in other forms of fitness because I was too self-conscious, felt too judged, and couldn’t focus on the movement. And now I get to have that feeling of accomplishment over and over again.