Becoming a full-time triathlete has been a massive shock. I’ve gone from being a regular lad who smoked and enjoyed a beer and rugby on weekends, to intensive training and staying away from my wife and kids on a weekly basis.
>>> Andy Lewis and Melissa Reid take paratriathlon bronze in Madrid
I won’t lie it hasn’t been easy – but kicking all those bad habits and becoming a professional athlete has been the best thing I could have done.
As a kid I was a keen cross-country runner, but up until recently (one year ago) I could not swim or ride a bike very well. With some help from some great people, and from being part of British Triathlon's World Class Performance Programme, I now feel confident in my abilities.
A year of wins and injury woes
So far this year I have travelled to South Africa, Madrid and Japan, spending time with Alistair Brownlee, Gordon Benson, Non Stanford and the rest of the squad, learning a lot from these guys along the way.
My training pattern now consists of over 25 hours a week, all managed and coordinated by my coach Steve Casson. This includes the swim, bike and run disciplines, but also other important elements like strength and conditioning, physio, and sports psychology.
So far this year I have won some tough races but I’ve also had to deal with injury, which has been really tough both physically and mentally. I recently finished fourth at the European Championships in Geneva on July 10.
What the future has to offer
I still have a lot to give and a lot to learn. My ultimate goal is getting on that podium in Rio 2016 and showing my family that all the sacrifices were worth it.
>>> Three more paratriathlon medal events for Rio 2016
On this road to Rio I have had to think long and hard about what I really want. You have to love being a triathlete. Training for three sports in one go is not for everyone and there are times when you feel very alone.
However, it’s great to see that triathlon is now one of the fastest growing sports in the UK, if not the world. To be part of that and potentially sporting history in 2016, when the paratriathlon becomes a Paralympic sport for the first time ever, is amazing.
The life of a paratriathlete is not like that of a normal triathlete. We need lots of kit. I use a running blade that can cost between £7,000 and £10,000, and the carbon socket alone costs £5,000 custom-made. Then there’s my carbon TT Di2 bike, hand built by Severn Valley Cycles. So I am very thankful when people ask if they can sponsor me.
I am currently sponsored by Airbus UK, Lucozade Sport, BlueSeventy and Severn Valley Cycles, to name a few, and this journey would not be possible without these people who believe in me.
We'll have more from Andy soon on his journey to Rio 2016 – watch this space!