N’ero: (nēr-ō) short for “near-zero”, hiker talk for a day in which only half of the day or less is spent hiking.
I always hear lots of talk about work versus vacation, weekend versus week days, time off versus time working. This dichotomy might work for some people, but not all activities and careers allow for such duality. It is important to have full days off but it may also be helpful to have a day that is still a work day but is laid-back.
Hikers, especially long-term thru-hikers, use the word n’ero as a term to mean they are taking an easy day but still gaining some miles. There might be a town nearby that promises resupply opportunities or even just a restaurant in which to eat real food. While the hiker wants to take advantage of such an opportunity, he or she also needs to keep moving along the trail. So they will hike just a few miles to get to the town, spend some time there, and keep hiking a few more miles.
Musicians and music students can benefit from this idea as well. While practicing 4-8 hours every day can be beneficial (although I often question the effectiveness of the seventh and eighth hours), taking time off is equally important. However, a full day off is not always the best thing for a musician especially if there is a concert coming up. It is good to drop back to 1-2 hours just for one day every now and then. This way, it is possible to stay in shape and keep moving forward with repertoire while also resting.
I have never seen any value in the incessant need to practice ridiculous numbers of hours every day. Of course, I, like many music students, am constantly nagged by the need to be practicing. It gets to the point that I can’t actually take breaks and vacations because I feel so bad about not practicing. But I know from a run-in with tendinitis that time off is just as important as practicing.
So if I am feeling tense or even just stressed but can’t shake the nagging musician-conscience, I just take a n’ero. This way, I can keep up with my studies while gaining some well-needed relaxation.