James Harris/CNN underlined, Photo: Lindsey Byrnes.
Leanne Pedante has been my fitness coach for more than three years. She’s regaled stories of embarrassing fashion choices as we threw our arms around to rousing pop punk, helped keep me in shape during boxing sessions, and delivered inspiring, uplifting words of wisdom as we stomped through Queen’s greatest hits. The thing is, I never met her until just a few months ago.
Pedante is the fitness director for Supernatural, a virtual reality app for the Meta Quest series that makes high-intensity exercise feel like a legitimately fun video game — one that has made myself and countless others truly fall in love with working out for the first time. Her voice is one of several you’ll hear as you engage with the app’s movement-based and boxing workouts, creating a connection between player and coach that I imagine is not all that different from what platforms like Peloton and Echelon use to retain their devoted trainees come back.
I recently had the chance to catch up with Pedante, who is just as energetic and warm in real life as she is in the virtual world. Here’s what I learned about her personal fitness journey, her thoughts on the new Meta Quest 3, and her everyday things that help make life better—both in and out of VR.
Despite being the literal head of fitness for a major app — not to mention a founder of such initiatives as Stride Treadmill Studio and Global Running Day Pasadena — Pedante says she wasn’t always an exerciser.
“I think that’s one of my superpowers,” says Pedante, a self-proclaimed “band geek” who began his career as a graphic designer. “I’ve spent a lot of my life not feeling like an athlete. And I know what it’s like to personally go through that transformation and start feeling strong and start really liking the feeling of moving.”
After living with depression and later an eating disorder in her late teens, Pedante found she began exercising in a “very compulsive and scary way.” After seeking treatment, she feared returning to exercise would mean going back to a dark place — until an aerobics class at a YMCA gave her a new perspective.
“It was so different from what I had experienced,” says Pedante. “It was like people felt happy and it wasn’t about punishing yourself; it was about celebrating, and there are all kinds of bodies and all kinds of ages, and it just felt like a party.”
This newfound passion for celebratory, inclusive and group-based exercise led Pedante to provide one-on-one lessons for people on a similar recovery journey—and later made her a perfect fit for Supernatural as the team prepared for its 2019 launch.
Pedante has led Supernatural’s workout programming ever since, helping with everything from music and movement selection to managing the show’s coaching staff (all of whom are rock stars to the app’s devoted Facebook community, with some interacting with fans quite often).
“A big question from (my clients) was always like, ‘Where can we work out that doesn’t have any mirrors?’ And it was really hard to find,” Pedante said. this was the first workout I’ve ever done where not only am I around mirrors, but I can’t even see my own body. When I experienced that, I thought, “Oh, this is actually the key to moving in this way that is so powerful and so empowering and liberating for people.”
Given that Supernatural lives exclusively on Meta’s Quest headset (Meta acquired the app’s parent company, Within, in 2023), I was eager to hear Pedante’s thoughts on the new $499 Quest 3. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the features that make the Quest 3 our top VR headset pick also makes it a great training device from a fitness professional’s point of view.
“There’s a level of clarity that I think is quite noticeable when you move from one of the previous generations,” says Pedante. “I love that the controls are a little narrower. Especially for boxing, I feel like I can move with just a clenched fist rather than feeling like I’m holding an object. I’m less likely to hit myself in the face, which I love .”
That said, if you can live without the Quest 3’s mixed-reality features, better looks, and stronger overall performance, the $300 Meta Quest 2 remains a great value for folks looking to dip their toes into VR for the first time, especially since it has access to the same great library of VR games and apps as the newer model. That was something Pedante was quick to point out.
“I’m really happy that (Quest 2) is still on the market and at the price point it’s at, because to me so many barriers to entry that can be broken down for VR fitness is a win for everyone,” she says. “I have lots of friends who I think have been on the fence about buying a Quest for the past few years and finally committed to getting the (Quest) 2 when the price dropped.”
“I use this mat when I practice Supernatural in a small space, like a hotel room or bedroom,” says Pedante. “The circular shape and texture of the mat allows me to feel confident that my feet stay centered, allowing me to punch and punch with confidence that I will hit nothing but targets.”
“I have always kept a journal and have a slight obsession with finding the perfect ballpoint pen. My search for the holy grail of pens is still ongoing, but I have found my favorite journal,” says Pedante. “This brand has a flexible cover, which means you can fold it in on itself like a spiral notebook. The pages never fall out, and it’s small enough that I can put it in any bag. I think I filling up on my fifth of these – they are the best.”
“I finally got serious about using sunscreen when I moved from the East Coast to Los Angeles about 10 years ago. But I struggled to find one I could wear every day—they would either leave a pasty white cast on my skin, be too oily or come off in flaky clumps when I started sweating,” says Pedante. “My friend and skincare guru Christy Puente of Timeless Aesthetics finally showed me the Skinbetter Tone Smart sunscreen. It has a tone-matching shade, so it’s flattering on most people, and it feels great on my skin, even on days when I’m getting sweaty.
“‘Bird by Bird’ is one of those books that I keep extra copies of, knowing that sooner or later I’ll want to give it to someone,” says Pedante. “Although it’s technically a book about writing, it’s also a book about making friends with your self-doubt, and laughing at your perfectionist tendencies and sadness and joy and life. The honesty and levity that Anne Lamott writes with feels like a hug to me, so I always keep a copy of this to give out to someone I think might enjoy it.”
“I’ve probably bought hundreds of ChapSticks and lip balms in my time on this earth, and this is by far my favorite,” says Pedante. “I always have two in my bag and two extra at home when I lose them.”
“Earlier this year I strained a muscle in my upper back and had the hardest time foam rolling it or reaching it with the Icy Hot,” says Pedante. “Someone gave me this Venom Go and it’s been a lifesaver. It heats up or uses impact massage, and it sticks to your skin, so it was perfect for that hard-to-reach spot. I love that it’s rechargeable so I can always have it ready .”
“I can’t believe how much joy I’ve gotten from my hummingbird feeder,” says Pedante. “When I first set it up, I thought I might see a few throughout the year. Instead, I have a handful of very territorial hummingbirds that camp around it all day. My current feeder sits outside my kitchen window and is dominated by a bossy hummingbird that I’ve named Genivieve after my grandmother, who was also tough as nails. Hummingbirds weren’t part of the landscape where I grew up, and it still feels like a little bit of magic when I see them here in LA.”
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