Supernatural superfan Chesney Mariani recently became a part of the VR app she uses everyday.
The makers of the Supernatural subscription-based VR exercise service brought her out to California to record a workout session and along the way she got to meet coaches like Leanne Pedante. Pedante is one of several Supernatural coaches Mariani works out with virtually, and for more than a year she’s met up with them at least daily. Now, she’s passing along a message of self love in a medium intensity workout lasting 23 minutes with songs like Unconditionally by Katy Perry, This is Me from The Greatest Showman, Born This Way by Lady Gaga and Titanium by David Guetta. Supernatural members can check out Mariani’s session in the app on Oculus Quest.
Mariani is a member of the Facebook group for Supernatural discussing VR fitness. The group frequently provides affirmations and supportive discussion, but the 18K people in the group also provide a window into a breakthrough use case for VR. For our interview, Mariani and I discussed whether VR can serve people who want to work out but are failed by the entire gym-going experience, and whether that’ll make VR-based workouts bigger than physical gyms. She also provided advice for new Supernatural users about her favorite workouts and which exercises to start with.
You can check out my discussion with Mariani in the video and you can also follow along reading the transcript below.
Ian: Hello everyone Ian Hamilton here, I’m here with Chesney Mariani. You’re a guest coach in the Supernatural app and you’re one of the biggest super fans of Supernatural. Do you think that’s a fair way of describing?
Chesney: Yes, absolutely.
How did you discover Supernatural?
Ian: How did you first discover Supernatural and how did it become this daily thing for you?
Chesney: I saw the little square inside the Oculus app that said Supernatural and I kind of looked at it and kind of passed along it. Cause it was very new to me. I was searching for things that I knew I wanted. But I came across that square again and I press the button and I saw the trailer and I saw the squats, the lunges and everything. And I thought, oh my gosh, this is a rhythm game. This is something I want to try. And I signed up for the 30 day trial and I was hooked day one.
Ian: What was your original reasoning for getting a VR headset?
Chesney: I wanted to get a smart bike because a friend of mine had one and it had the competition aspect with the leaderboard and classes, but it was just too expensive. And so a friend of mine said, why don’t you get an Oculus headset? You can play games sitting down. You can play rhythm games. And I said, you know what? That’s a really good idea. And it’s quite a bit cheaper than a smart bike. So I got the Oculus and I was very pleasantly surprised with everything and I was hooked.
Ian: This was the original quest one?
Ian: Are you upgraded to a two now or are you still on the first one?
Chesney: I’m upgraded to a two.
How much do you use Supernatural?
Ian: How would you describe the amount of usage of Supernatural, has it changed over the course of the year since you originally discovered the app?
Chesney: Absolutely. When I first started, I think I did one or two and being so out of shape at that point. And when I say out of shape, I mean didn’t do a lot of moving. So my body wasn’t used to it. So I did it every day and I still have done it every day since August 20th, 2020. But some days I do maybe three or four workouts. Some days I go in and do a five minute quick hits. It really just depends on the day and how I’m feeling and how my body feels. I cranked out a 28 minute workout this morning. So it really depends how I feel, but there are days where I only want to go in and do quick hits and come out. But knowing that I’ve moved my body, I’ve done my part.
When did you discover the official Supernatural Facebook group?
Ian: When did you discover the Facebook community?
Chesney: I discovered the Facebook community right away. I went and looked for it and I found it and I joined it and I was really, really nervous, but really, really excited. And I made my first post. And that was all she wrote.
Ian: Describe for the people who haven’t seen the Facebook group, what that community is like and what you found when you first got there and what you find there on a daily basis nowadays.
Chesney: The community is so warming and so welcoming. And it was something that I really wasn’t expecting because this was a fitness- based Facebook group and being, you know, overweight. I was really, really nervous that I would run into people who judged, but that wasn’t the case. I use the Facebook group just about every single day and there are so many people there who hate exercising but they love Supernatural because you’re listening to this great music and you’re moving your body and it just feels kind of fluid.
Ian: Did you intend for Supernatural to take all of your VR attention?
Chesney: No, I didn’t intend for that to happen. My original intention was to get in the app three times a week and work out, which was a lot more than what I was doing, but I had that first day where I worked out my very first post after that, that next day, I said, I can barely walk down the stairs today because I’m so sore, but I’m getting ready to go back down and do another workout. Three times a week turned into every single day, which turned into 30, which turned into 90, which ended up at 365 plus. It takes up most of my time in VR and I love it.
What was your goal setting out when you first started using Supernatural?
Ian: What was your goal setting out when you first started using it? Are you at that goal and did you set a new goal for yourself?
Chesney: My original goal was three times a week. That was my thing because, I was a lot heavier than I am now. I surpass that three times a week goal by going every single day. And, it’s kind of funny, being a professional gamer, I like to make these little goals where I’m going to do every single workout that’s 15 minutes or less, a low, medium high from every single coach. Now I’m working on all the workouts that are 25 minutes or more. So I have to make little quests in my mind to just make it a lot more fun.
What was it like becoming a coach and meeting Leanne?
Ian: Tell me about this process of becoming this guest coach and what it felt like to meet Leanne. What was it like actually meeting her and learning that you were going to be inside this app that you were sort of becoming obsessed with?
Chesney: I do want to preface this by saying that I met her a couple of different times. The first time ‘we met’ was over a zoom call. I was kind of ambushed and I use the air quotes a lot. I was ambushed being told it was a customer feedback call. I was talking to Johnny who’s in marketing and he said, someone’s popping in and Leanne popped in and I immediately screamed and I started to cry because I had no idea what was happening and what was going on. And she went through this whole little presentation and ended up asking if I would let them bring me to LA to become a guest coach and coach my own Supernatural workout. And there were lots of tears that day. It was so overwhelming, but when I got to LA and met her in person. I wasn’t expecting her to jump out of the car and she did, and I screamed and she screamed and it was a surreal experience. I’ve seen this woman so many days in the app, I felt like I knew her. And I will say what you see in the app is what you get in real life. It was amazing.
Ian: How do you think about the power of VR and being able to realize something about yourself that you’ve been wanting to for awhile?
Chesney: I love VR, and being able to have your own identity inside of the Oculus or just VR in general. I always try to make my avatars, I’m chuckling, uh, make them look as much like me as possible. This one was a little bit off. I couldn’t find anything in the first version of the avatars, because I wanted that avatar to be overweight. I wanted the avatar to have the purple or pink hair, to have the glasses. I absolutely love showing people how I am. That’s how I want them to see me is how I am. So you know in the version two, my avatar is overweight, she has like a mohawk like I do. She’s got the purple hair. It’s fabulous.
Where do you think you would be without Supernatural?
Ian: Hopefully we can get the 2.0 version installed here as soon as possible. They basically rolled that out to a handful of devs earlier this year with the plan of sometime this fall, rolling out the new version of avatars to more devs. Let me ask you this question, where do you think you would be without Supernatural?
Chesney: Are we trying to get my Oculus to short out if I start crying? Is that, is that what the goal is?
Ian: I got Leanne close to crying, I think in her interview.
Chesney: If I’m a hundred percent honest, I don’t know where I would be. I would probably still be struggling trying to find a workout program that I enjoyed. Cause some of the other games you can only do so much of because a lot of it is repetitive. So Supernatural just gives me a way to move my body differently, even though I’ve done the moves before put to different music, it’s amazing. And it keeps me interested.
Ian: Given that there’s so many rhythm games, is there anything that has come close to fulfilling the workout needs that you’re looking for?
Chesney: I’ve played a lot of the rhythm games, and maybe I’ll go through a phase where I’ll play one of them for a week and do Supernatural and then I’ll just put the other one away. I think it’s the combination of the different types of moves, the music and the different scenery. I’m big on feeling like I’m in the experience. So with the scenery I could be an Iceland. I could be on top of a mountain. I could be in front of a lake and, I pair that with my high velocity fan and I feel like I’m right there.
Ian: Fan is such a great idea it’s such a perfect fit for it.
Chesney: Absolutely. And you’re immersed and you can turn around and you can see 360 and it feels like you are right there. A lot deeper than those other rhythm games, if that makes sense.
Is there a particular workout that you’ve played more than any other?
Ian: So is there a particular workout that you come back to and you’ve played more than any other?
Chesney: Yes. There’s a couple of them. Both of them are sweat symphonies. One is a five minute sweat symphony with coach Dwana and one is a five minute sweat symphony with coach Doc. I use those on my active rest days a lot of the time, and they’re just, I grew up in the band. So I hear the sweat symphonies, I used to dance, all of that together, It just makes me feel like I’m incredibly powerful and I hold the power to conduct these symphonies.
Where would you suggest a Supernatural noob start?
Ian: For people who are new to Supernatural since you’ve been through such a big part of the library, where would you recommend a noob start? Where should they go?
Chesney: You can actually search by coaches and you can search by coach and intensity. So ‘Leanne low’ and you’ll eventually find some of the getting starteds. Like I think Dwana has done them. I think Doc has done them. I can’t remember if they’ve all done them, but the getting started are really great. And I’ve even gone back and done the ones I haven’t done. It takes it at a slower pace and basically it teaches you how to move and how to follow through the cones. And I think that’s a great starting point for any of the new players to check out.
Ian: You talked about surreal? I think is a word you used at some point. Was the whole trip like that for you a little bit?
Chesney: It was the whole trip. All the way from getting on the plane here in Columbus landing in LA meeting Leanne, just riding around in a vehicle and kinda just talking back and forth. And I end up at the hotel and it was all just a very surreal experience. I woke up, I went to the studio. I still couldn’t believe I was there. I’d have to like pinch myself. Is this real? It was amazing.
Ian: What is gonna keep you from your Supernatural headsets these days?
Chesney: If my headset breaks, but then I will probably try to replace it very quickly with Amazon. I do still have the first Quest that I could do a backup. This has become such a huge part of my life and I don’t ever see myself giving it up.
What are you hoping to see from your Supernatural workouts?
Ian: You said something in your interview about some condition that made it hard for you to actually lose weight. Can you explain what that was and, how that relates to what you’re hoping to see out of your Supernatural workouts?
Chesney: I’ve got polycystic ovarian syndrome, which is PCOS and one of the symptoms, basically obesity and PCOS go hand in hand, one can cause the other, the other can cause the other, I have insulin resistance, it’s a lot easier for me to gain the weight and a little bit harder for me to take it off. So I lose slower than other people. My entire journey before Supernatural started December of 2019. So I went into a lifestyle change, journaling my food and everything, and since then I’m down 70 pounds, so it’s been slow, but my clothes fit differently. I’m losing inches. I am losing weight. It’s one of those things that sometimes it can be hard to see, but when you look at a starting picture and then you see current, it’s easier that way. I can tell you when I flew out to California, I didn’t need a seatbelt extender. And that was the first time I hadn’t. So. I cried. I cry at like everything. So I cried when I realized I didn’t need that seatbelt extender because I knew what I was doing was working.
What is the role of positivity in working out?
Ian: That was one of the questions I put to Leanne too, and I loved her response so much. She said pay attention to the way you talk to yourself and the words that you use talk to yourself. How did those words affect you?
Chesney: I don’t know if I’ll answer this correctly, but the way that I feel about it is, if you’re wanting to go to the gym and you’re dreading it, and you’re constantly like negative self-talking yourself, it’s going to make it a lot harder for you to do anything. I may not have had extremely positive words the very first time I put my headset on, because I didn’t know what to expect, but once I got through my very first Supernatural workout, I couldn’t believe what I had done inside the headset. I couldn’t believe that I made it through a workout. It took me 40 minutes to do a 20 minute workout because I had to sit down and take a breather and drink water because I was not used to moving as much as I did. By me realizing that I had done that and I kept going, you have to love yourself. You have to be nice to yourself and self-love is where it starts. If you can’t love yourself, it’s really hard to do anything else.
Do you think VR workouts will be bigger than gyms?
Ian: How big do you think VR exercise is going to get? Is it going to be bigger than gyms?
Chesney: I think it will be, there are a lot of individuals out there who are in my situation who don’t want to go to a gym. And I know that people have said ‘ nobody cares if you’re at the gym, they’re not paying attention to you.’ That’s not true, there have been instances where, people have looked and snickered or recorded on their phone when they’re not supposed to be. I think VR is opening the door to everybody who doesn’t want to go to a gym because they’re afraid of being judged, there’s mirrors, they don’t want to see what their body looks like working out in the mirror. There’s nobody around. The only person that’s around is you, maybe a partner, your animals. And it makes it a lot easier to exercise when you’re in there. You can’t see anybody when you’ve got the headset on. So you’re in there, you’re quote ‘alone.’ Nobody’s judging you now. That’s not to say my husband hasn’t tried to walk in front of me and I’ve accidentally punched him. Because he thought he was being a ninja, what he says. Nobody’s judging you in the headset.
Ian: It seems like there’s plenty of people that are failed by the whole gym experience. A lot of people are picking up headsets every month and sort of discovering VR fitness the same way you did more than a year ago. Are you constantly greeting new people all the time?
Chesney: I’m seeing a lot of new people come in and even with the recent release of my workout and the announcement that I was the guest coach, my friends were floored. A lot of my friends don’t have VR headsets and now I think three or four of them have bought one just specifically for Supernatural.
Who is your favorite coach?
Ian: So final question I think for right now, I’m going to put you on the spot here with a very tough question. Who is your favorite coach?
Chesney: I don’t have a favorite coach. Listen. Okay.
Ian: I’m not going to let you out that easily.
Chesney: Um, okay. Okay. Okay. Um my heart is like racing right now. Um, you really got me with that. Um, i, I will say that I absolutely love them all. They all bring something different to the table. They’re all different. But, um, I love Mark. I adore Mark. Oh God.
Ian: I got, I got that.
Chesney: You did. I almost said me just to avoid everything, but I’m like, no, no, I better not say that.
Ian: That would’ve been great.