Hormesis is a biological phenomenon whereby a beneficial effect (improved health, stress tolerance, growth or longevity) results from exposure to low doses of an agent that is otherwise toxic or lethal when given at higher doses.
In an effort to not get too terribly technical here I’m going to try and explain in easier terms. Hormesis is the idea of when exposing an organism to stress whether it’s from a drug, exercise whatever, a little bit can be good, and too much can cause negative issues. Also prevalent in this idea is that not enough stimulus will yield no results. An easy way to think about this phenomenon is with drugs. If I have a headache and take 1 Tylenol, it probably isn’t going to have much effect. If I take 2 Tylenol, I have now reached a minimum effective dose in order to cause a change. If I take 12 Tylenol I can shut down my kidneys and liver (too much of a good thing).
The same idea is prevalent in training. If I train too little, I’m not going to get much positive effect out of the effort. If I train to much, it can negatively impact what I am doing. If I create the right exposure, what we call the minimum effective dose, you will receive the benefits desired from the training. The key is to find what that minimum effective dose is for you. As you progress in your fitness, your tolerance for the stress will also increase thereby allowing you to give yourself a higher dose with positive benefit. This is the same reason why we don’t want people to train with us 4 days a week and run 3 miles every day. That would lead to negative results. The key to training effectively is not quantity but quality of the training.
Working in a program that is carefully planned, and working with coaches that know what they are doing will help steer you towards the direction of benefiting from hormesis of your training. Have you ever trained too much? Have you ever not trained enough? What is your minimum effective dose required for positive response?