Tokyo 2021 Paralympic Games are 100 days away, on August 24, and the athletes are officially in intense training mode in preparation. The Games are always an exciting and high-energy time, but this year, many of the athletes are more stoked than usual. After last year's event was canceled due to the pandemic, this year feels almost like a redemption tour. To help get you hyped for the 2021 Paralympics, we asked several Team U.S.A. Paralympians about their favorite workouts, and how they feel to be finally competing after a stressful and world-altering year. To learn more about all the Paralympic hopefuls, visit NBC. TeamUSA.org. The Tokyo Paralympics begin August 24 th on Road Cycling Oksana Masters Sport: Instagram: @oksanamasters Masters is a four-time Paralympian and eight-time medalist. Originally from Ukraine, she’s been diagnosed with tibial hemimelia and was born with damage to both legs due to in-utero radiation poisoning after the Chernobyl nuclear reactor incident, Team USA reports. She was adopted by an American speech therapy professor at age 7, and at 13, she began rowing. She's gone on to compete in the biathlon, cross country skiing, and road cycling. What's your favorite workout? "Short and sweet power-speed workouts,” she says. She’ll go for intervals of 10 minutes, three times in a row. During each interval, she'll mix up the pace, doing 45 seconds of all-out effort, then 15 seconds at an easy pace. What would you be doing if you were not an athlete? Masters would be a vet, a physical therapist for animals — or a detective. How do you feel to be finally competing after the past year? “After this past year, I am beyond excited and nervous to finally compete,” Masters says. “Excited because I miss seeing the international field and being amongst the best in the world; nervous because I do not know where my fitness stacks up compared to everyone. I am excited to race not just for myself but for my team and sponsors that have stood by me through all of the challenges the past year has brought. And more importantly to show how strong Team U.S.A. is and compete as one team.” Photo: Courtesy of NBC Olympics Sitting Volleyball Nicky Nieves Sport: Instagram: @nicolina_cruzzz After bringing home a gold medal with her team in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, the middle blocker, who grew up in Florida, says she’s ready to take on Tokyo at full force. What's your favorite workout? “Anything involving deadlifts or squats are my favorites,” Nieves says. What would you be doing if you were not an athlete? "I would do more with my nonprofit, Limitless People, Inc., she says of the organization, which brings both sitting and standing volleyball to folks without seeing money, race, physical ability, or gender as barriers," Nieves says. “I would also start my grad program earlier — it’s kind of tough right now with the Games — so I could become a licensed mental health counselor and open my own clinic." How do you feel to be finally competing after the past year? Some of her relatives were directly impacted by COVID-19, and Nieves has previously been open about how the pandemic has impacted her mental health. She went through depression after the postponement of the 2020 Paralympics, according to The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Now, she says she’s ready to jump back into the games this summer. “[I’m] Elated!” Nieves says. “It’s incredible to be able to get back to doing what I love, and counting down again to Tokyo.” Photo: Courtesy of NBC Olympics Sitting Volleyball Kaleo Kanahele Maclay Sport: Instagram: @kaleomaclay Born in Oklahoma, Maclay is a setter who’s been training with the Paralympic Sitting Volleyball team since she was only 12 years old. Now she’s a two-time Paralympic medalist. When she’s not training, she runs two small businesses — a coffee, bakery, and flower shop called Flower & Flour and baked good company called Cookies by Kaleo. What's your favorite workout? “Pilates and yoga are two of my favorites,” she says. “It’s different from our usual weight lifting sessions but I love how I feel after a mindful Pilates or yoga session.” What would you be doing if you were not an athlete? “I am a baker, I have loved baking and found a passion in it,” Maclay says. If she wasn’t an athlete, she’d focus on Flower and Flour full time, she adds. How do you feel to be finally competing after the past year? "I feel so thankful!” Maclay says. “Thankful to be back together as a team, thankful to be in the gym and thankful to be back on track for the Tokyo games.” Photo: Courtesy of NBC Olympics Swimming Mallory Weggemann Sport: Instagram: @malloryweggemann The two-time Paralympian swimmer from Kansas specializes in a variety of strokes, including freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly, at varying lengths. What's your favorite workout? "Oh goodness, that is hard — I have a number of favorite workouts,” Weggemann says. “One thing they all have in common is that I love workouts that challenge me, physically and mentally.” She names a few favorites: A pool workout during which she swims 100 meters as fast as possible with breaks of only 10 seconds in between, 10 times through. She also loves a workout she refers to as “AMRAP,” which means "as many rounds as possible” and involves repeating a circuit of different exercises as many times as she can over the course of 25 minutes. “I love workouts that require me to not only physically step it up, but mentally,” she says. “I never ‘hold back’ to conserve myself for the length of a workout — I go all out from the start and challenge myself to maintain it even when my mind wants to give up. The reality is our minds give up far before our bodies ever will and when it comes time for race day, you have to be willing to go all out and not back down from the fight when your mind tries to tell you that your body is seizing up. [I believe] that is when you have to be able to hit the next gear and truly redefine your perceived limitations.” What would you be doing if you were not an athlete? ”Honestly, I would continue to do all the things I am currently doing outside of the pool. My husband and I are co-owners of TFA Group, a social impact agency and production studio that utilizes the power of storytelling to change perception of disability,” Weggemann says. “I am an author of my book LIMITLESS, which was released in March 2021, and I hope that it is the first of many. I am a speaker and thoroughly connecting and empowering others to reach their fullest potential. I have worked as a reporter for NBC Sports and would love to continue to build a career in that space... Although, I don’t plan on retiring as an athlete anytime soon — my husband and I would love to start a family after Tokyo and I would love to continue to compete as a mom.” How do you feel to be finally competing after the past year? "Being back to competition is such a gift — one of the main things that my career and this past year in general has taught me is that doing what you love is not something to be taken for granted. I am so looking forward to seeing our world come together and unite in Tokyo as we begin to heal after an extremely difficult time in our society.” Photo: Courtesy of NBC Olympics McKenzie Coan Sport: Swimming Instagram: @mckenzie_coan Coan first tried swimming in 2001, when she started aquatic therapy after being diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease). The Georgia native went on to join the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Team, and is now a two-time Paralympian with four medals. What's your favorite workout? "I always love a challenging set at practice, and as primarily a mid-to-long-distance freestyler, any chance I get to swim a lengthy freestyle workout is my favorite,” Coan says. “The longest race — and my favorite — at the Paralympic Games is the 400-meter freestyle, which is eight lengths in an Olympic-sized, 50 meter pool. To prepare for the 400 freestyle, I will do a set of 400's holding my best average time repeatedly, which is one of my favorite workouts. It's super challenging, but if I can go out and do several of those in a row and find my rhythm and pace, it gives me so much confidence when I'm behind the blocks about to compete for Team USA. Plus, to me, there's no better feeling of accomplishment than finishing a hard workout and knowing you gave your all and you're better for it.” What would you be doing if you were not an athlete? "If I were not an athlete, I would still be involved with outreach programs supporting today's youth,” she says. “One of my favorite parts about competing and serving in my role as a Paralympian is interacting with children who have disabilities and getting them involved and familiar with para-sports. In addition, I would continue to carry on work with my foundation, Kenzie Kares, in which I visit different children's hospitals and clinics to meet with kids and their families who are facing life-threatening illnesses.” How do you feel to be finally competing after the past year? “I am incredibly excited to be competing again,” Coan says. “I swam my first race in over 14 months back in April, and I couldn't help but feel such an immense sense of gratitude as I stepped on the starting block. The world is going through something so difficult and devastating, and the past year has certainly thrown a lot of uncertainties our way, so having the opportunity to go out and do what I love gave me hope as we move forward to brighter days. I will take that feeling of gratitude and hope with me as we go into Paralympic Trials and on to the Tokyo Games. I am ready to show the world what I can do and unite in Tokyo as we show the world what is possible and what overcoming looks like.” Photo: Courtesy of NBC Olympics Tatyana McFadden Sport: Track & Field Instagram: @tatyanamcfaddenusa McFadden was born with spina bifida (a congenital disorder which impacts the spinal cord’s development) in Russia, and learned to walk on her hands to keep up with the other kids. She began enrolling in different sports after being adopted and moving to the U.S. in 1993. She found her place in wheelchair racing, where her arm strength helped her excel, according to her website. She competed in her first Paralympic games in Athens in 2004, and currently holds 17 Paralympic medals. What's your favorite workout? “Hill workouts and sprinting workouts,” McFadden says. What would you be doing if you were not an athlete? “Being an advocate for people with disabilities for full inclusion and for youth to be involved in sports,” she says. How do you feel to be finally competing after the past year? “I am thrilled to be competing again,” McFadden says. “I've missed the adrenaline rush of racing and camaraderie of being with teammates and competitors.” Photo: Courtesy of NBC Olympics Allysa Seely Sport: Triathlon Instagram: @triallysa When Seely was in college at Arizona State University, she began competing in triathlons at the collegiate level and was nationally ranked. In 2010, she was diagnosed with Chiari II Malformation, basilar invagination, and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, all of which impacted her spine, brain, and connective tissues, according to Team U.S.A. After going through her first surgery, she went back to competing, and in 2012 made a debut as an elite paratriathlete. She went to the Rio 2016 games and brought home gold in the paratriathlon’s debut as a Paralympic medal event. What's your favorite workout? “Can I pick one from each discipline? I do train in three sports after all,” Seely says. For running, she likes to do descending intervals: she'll start by running for eight minutes, then six minutes, then four, two, and one, resting in between each block and running progressively faster. Her favorite swimming workout involves doing four sets of fast 600-meter swims, broken up into varying distances. And her favorite biking workout is “adventure rides with friends,” Seely says. “Sometimes we set out with a purpose, [such as] climbing Pikes Peak [in Colorado]. Other times we just go for as long and as far as we want exploring new roads." What would you be doing if you were not an athlete? “I would likely be working in medical research, more specifically pediatric cancer research... Or own a bakery,” Seely says. “Yeah, I know I couldn’t have found two things further from each other.” How do you feel to be finally competing after the past year? "My first race back since the pandemic hit will be in June,” she says. “Twenty-two months will have passed since I last stepped foot on the race course. Of course, I’m expecting there to be some nerves and minor blunders that occur because of the significant amount of time that has lapsed, but I am so incredibly excited to get back into the race course and back to being the competitor I know I am.” Photo: Courtesy of NBC Olympics Melissa Stockwell Sport: Triathlon Instagram: @mstockwell01 Stockwell was a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army’s transportation corps, but one month into her deployment to Iraq, in April 2004, her vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. She became the very first female American active-combat soldier ever to lose a limb. She received the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for her service. Four years later, Stockwell became the first Iraq War veteran to qualify for the Paralympic Games. She’s competed in swimming and the triathlon at the Games. What's your favorite workout? "Track workouts are my favorites,” Stockwell says. She loves to do three sets of a mile at a hard and fast pace with minimal rest. What would you be doing if you were not an athlete? "It's hard to imagine my life without athletics,” Stockwell says. “I imagine I would be at home more with my kids but also spending more time working at our prosthetic company, Tolsma/Stockwell Prosthetics — and maybe teaching a fitness class at a local gym.” How do you feel to be finally competing after the past year? "It's beyond amazing,” Stockwell says. “It feels a little surreal, but I can't stop smiling when I'm out on the race course. I feel like the games are going to be such a celebration and bring the world together through sport.” Photo: Courtesy of NBC Olympics Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here? Get To Know Jessica Long What Was <em>Vogue</em> <em>Brazil</em> Thinking With This?